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June 15, 2011

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'Kerosene shrimps' concern consumers

RESIDENTS have complained that fresh-water shrimps bought from city markets give off a distinct kerosene smell when being cooked, raising concerns about how transporters keep the animals alive.

Anxious consumers fear unscrupulous transporters add kerosene or diesel to the crustaceans' water to "stimulate" them during transport and keep them alive.

But an expert from the local aquatic product market said low-quality recycled plastic bags shrimps are put in were to blame for the smell, and warned that they may be harmful to human health.

Among concerned shoppers, a 50-year-old resident, surnamed Gu, told Shanghai Daily she was stunned to see the shrimps she cooked on Sunday "freeze" even though the temperature was 26 Celsius degree. "I've never seen that happen in my life," said Gu. "Additives must have been used."

A local aquatic market insider said fresh-water shrimp are liable to die during transport, so some transporters would use one or two drops of kerosene or diesel to "stimulate" them and keep them alive.

But Tang Tailai, an expert and official with Tongchuan Aquatic Product Market, dismissed this, saying fresh-water shrimps require high-quality water and even one drop of diesel would kill them.

"Transporters sometimes use ice to slow down shrimps' activities to keep them alive," he said.

Tang believed the strange smell could be caused by the plastic bags that were used to pack the shrimp.

He said chemicals in the bags might be absorbed by the shrimps, leading to the smell of kerosene during cooking.

The bags could also be harmful to human, he added.

Fan Shoulin, official with the Shanghai Fishery Association, said residents can take shrimp suspected of being polluted by kerosene to the city industry and commerce bureau for a check.

Fan said they will also carry out investigations into the market.


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