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July 13, 2012

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Inspectors to hunt for toxic snails

SHANGHAI authorities will begin to inspect for nassarius sea snails at local seafood markets after food-poisoning cases, including one death, were reported in neighboring Zhejiang Province, officials said yesterday.

The inspection's start date had not been set yesterday.

Altogether 21 people were reported ill this week after eating the snails - which can become highly toxic - in Zhejiang's Wenzhou City. A 51-year-old woman died, 14 people got sick but recovered and six were still in the hospital yesterday.

Fan Shoulin, secretary general of the Shanghai Fisheries Trade Association, said the association is aware of the poisoning cases and has asked all local seafood markets to check whether nassarius snails are being sold before the citywide inspection starts.

"Conch vendors selling nassarius snails will be asked to register their products and record all the customers they have sold the snails to," Fan said. Though they can be toxic, the snails are not banned from dinner tables or seafood markets.

Fan said the association will tighten up the supervision at local seafood markets even though there has been no death from eating the snails reported in Shanghai in recent years.

Tang Tailai, marketing manager of the Tongchuan Road Seafood Market, one of the three biggest seafood markets in Shanghai, said no nassarius snails were found in a night inspection yesterday.

"Nassarius snails are rarely sold in Shanghai and are not popular among local residents, especially after the poisoning cases that frequently broke out in neighboring provinces in recent years," said Fan.

In 2007, the health ministry issued a nationwide notice, mandating that restaurants not purchase, process or sell nassarius snails. The notice also suggested consumers not risk their lives to eat the snails.

Nassarius snails, a kind of conch living in the sea of Southeast Asia and China, are abundant in China's Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong provinces.

Though the snail itself is not poisonous, it can absorb toxins from its environment, such as the poisons produced by red tide algal blooms.


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