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July 6, 2011

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Big market sells dead oysters

DEAD oysters, octopuses and mantis shrimps, popular in street barbecues and small restaurants, are being sold at Tongchuan Road Seafood Market in Putuo District, a Shanghai Daily investigation has found.

The market is one of the largest in the city for wholesale seafood.

In one store, dead oysters are hidden inside a plastic box and are secretly sold for 2 yuan (28 US cents) each. The offer is only good for customers buying large quantities. A living oyster usually costs 5 yuan to 7 yuan.

According to the store's boss surnamed Shen, the dead oysters are commonly bought by street barbecue vendors or small restaurants. The oysters are then cooked with lots of seasoning so customers don't notice.

Shen said in other stores, the meat and shells of dead and decaying oysters are sold separately at even cheaper prices. But he warned such products can make people sick.

Li Shuguang, a professor with the School of Public Health of Fudan University, said: "People are very likely to vomit and have diarrhea after eating a dead oyster."

In another store, Yunzai Seafood, a boss surnamed Chen told Shanghai Daily of several other ways to make quick money from dead seafood products.

The "cash cows" are dead octopuses and mantis shrimps, both popular among residents.

Chen said strong additives and seasonings are used so they taste good even if they have been dead for a long time, said Chen.

"The trick is to cook them with pepper salt so customers don't notice the true taste of the meat," said Chen. "Almost all the street barbecue vendors do this."

A kilogram of dead octopuses or mantis shrimps costs 15 yuan, while fresh ones cost 30 yuan to 45 yuan.

In many small restaurants, the products cooked with pepper salt sell for 30 yuan to 50 yuan a kilogram. A vendor can earn at least 1,000 yuan per day by selling the dead products, Chen said.

Dead octopuses or mantis shrimps, which spoil quickly in summer, can lead to diarrhea when eaten.

Tang Tailai, a supervising official at Tongchuan Road Seafood Market, said the dead oysters are mostly sold by illegal vendors on the street. He warned residents not to buy cheap oysters at street barbecues to avoid getting sick.

City industrial and commercial authorities, however, said yesterday they didn't uncover any problems when they inspected the market.

The Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau said it checked the market yesterday after receiving complaints and that all shell products were found to be safe and fresh.


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