The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) announced the findings of a targeted food surveillance project to assess the microbiological quality of ice-cream and frozen confections today (July 18). The overall satisfactory rate remains high at 99.5 per cent, same as that of last year.
A total of 1,100 ice-cream and frozen confection samples, including soft ice-cream, sundaes, ice-cream in original wrapper, ice-cream scoops and popsicles were collected from over 400 food factories, mobile vans, supermarkets, restaurants and retail outlets for testing of pathogens (e.g. Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus) and hygiene indicators (coliform organisms and total bacterial count), a spokesman for the CFS said.
All samples passed the tests for pathogens. As for hygiene indicators, three unsatisfactory samples of ice-cream scoops have been announced in the Food Safety Report for May.
The total bacteria counts of two of the unsatisfactory samples announced earlier were 170,000 and 320,000 per gramme respectively. Another sample was detected to contain 300 coliform organisms per gramme. All three samples exceeded the legal limits.
The two unsatisfactory ice-cream samples announced this time were both found to contain coliform organisms at a level of 210 per gramme and 6,600 per gramme respectively. The total bacteria count of one of the two samples was found to be 1,200,000 per gramme, all of which exceeded the legal limits.
Under the Frozen Confections Regulation, each gramme of frozen confection (including ice-cream) for sale should not contain more than 50,000 bacteria or over 100 coliform organisms. The maximum penalty for offenders is a fine of $10,000 and three months' imprisonment.
"The finding of coliform organisms and total bacterial count of individual ice-cream scoop samples above the legal limits suggests sub-optimal hygienic conditions in the course of processing at the food premises concerned and warrants rectifications," the spokesman said.
"The CFS has taken follow-up actions, including issuing warning letters to the retailers concerned, stepping up inspections on retail shops and collecting follow-up samples for testing. Advice has also been given on personal hygiene, cleaning and sanitising production facilities. Prosecution actions will be taken if there is sufficient evidence."
He reminded manufacturers to ensure that their food products are fit for human consumption and meet the legal requirements. They should also obtain ingredients, such as milk, cream and ice-cream mix, from licensed and reliable sources, and establish and practise food safety control plans such as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System.
As for the retailers, the spokesman said, they should not re-freeze melted frozen confections for sale and should discard the defrosted products. They should also cleanse and sanitise all equipment and utensils every day. Good hygienic practices during all preparation and handling processes (including personal hygiene of food handlers) should be observed while keeping both hands clean.
"Consumers should buy ice-cream and frozen confections from reliable shops and should not buy or consume any ice-cream or frozen confection which has expired or is not of good quality. They should also maintain a balanced diet and avoid eating too much ice-cream, as it is generally high in calories," he added.
Ends/Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:31