Food lovers buying Chinese freshwater hairy crabs reportedly sourced from a renowned mainland lake are being warned that the crustaceans are not genuine, an official says.
This year’s official hunting season of Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs – which attract the highest prices and are considered a delicacy on the mainland and in Hong Kong – begins on September 23.
However, some traders were already claiming to be selling the special crabs famed for their creamy texture, China National Radio reported.
The sale of high-priced fake hairy crabs, which traders claim are genuine Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs – defined as those that are raised in the lake for at least six months – is an annual problem.
Some crabs now trussed up and stacked in chill cabinets in shops even had bogus anti-counterfeiting Yangcheng Lake barcodes on their shells to fool buyers, the head of Suzhou Yangcheng Lake Crab Association said.
A reporter at the radio station who scanned a barcode on one fake hairy crab found it led to a website claiming that the crab had been supplied by a company selling genuine Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs, the report said.
However, an employee at the firm denied it had sold the crab to the reporter. The employee also added that it had still not been granted permission by the association to use the special barcodes, the report said.
The current situation was a bit “chaotic”, the head of the association admitted.
“All the Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs being peddled on the market now are fake.”
The head of the association said it might be that a small number of genuine Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs were being sold early by some fishermen themselves, but there should be no barcodes attached to these crabs.
Hong Kong imports hairy crabs mainly from four places on the mainland – Yangcheng Lake in Suzhou, Tai Lake in the Yangtze River Delta in Wuxi, Gucheng Lake in Nanjing and Changdang Lake in Changzhou, the report said.
Some of the crabs now being sold in Hong Kong markets were from Tai Lake, the report said.
Neville Lau, the manager of Hung Fook Company, a Hong Kong importer of hairy crabs, said the earliest date for Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs to appear in the city should be around September 26.
“The easiest way for Hong Kong people to identify the genuine source of a hairy crab is to ring the phone number on the anti-counterfeiting barcode attached to it,” Lau said, adding that his company had already started to sell hairy crabs from Tai Lake.
There is huge demand for the limited number of Yancheng Lake hairy crabs that go on sale, which means counterfeiting is lucrative – and rampant – on the mainland, despite annual crackdowns by the authorities and local crab industry associations.
Many crustaceans sold as Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs on the mainland actually come from other waters. Some are known as “bathing crabs” because they spend a short time – several hours to a couple of weeks – in Yangcheng Lake before being passed off as the genuine article.
Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs are hunted when they start their annual migration towards the Yangtze River Delta for mating.