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Results of Phase I study on use of sulphur dioxide in meat released

     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) today (May 19) announced the results of a targeted food surveillance project to assess the use of sulphur dioxide in meat. Four samples, three of fresh beef and one of fresh pork, out of 167 meat samples were found to contain the preservative, which is not permitted to be used in fresh, chilled or frozen meat. The overall satisfactory rate was 97.6%.

     A CFS spokesman said the Centre continued to conduct a two-phase targeted surveillance project this year to assess the use of sulphur dioxide in meat following repeated detection of the preservative in fresh meat samples in recent years.

     The spokesman said that during Phase I of the study, samples of beef, pork and mutton were collected at fresh provision shops and market stalls in February and March. These included meat stalls with records of selling meat containing sulphur dioxide.

     The four fresh meat samples were found to contain sulphur dioxide at levels ranging from 22 parts per million (ppm) to 470ppm. The results of the three fresh beef samples were announced in the Food Safety Reports for February and March. The CFS has taken follow-up action, including collecting follow-up samples and issuing warning letters to the shop operators concerned.

     The spokesman said, "Individual meat traders have been found using sulphur dioxide to make the meat look fresher."

     "Sulphur dioxide is of low toxicity. As it is water-soluble, most of it can be removed through washing and cooking. Adverse health effects are unlikely upon normal consumption of meat with similar levels of sulphur dioxide, but susceptible individuals who are allergic to it may experience breathing difficulty, headache and nausea," he said.

     Under the Preservatives in Food Regulation (subsidiary legislation of Cap. 132), it is an offence to sell fresh, chilled or frozen meat containing sulphur dioxide, and the maximum penalty is a fine of $50,000 and six months' imprisonment. Upon conviction, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will impose the penalty of suspension or cancellation of the concerned fresh provision shop licence according to the "Demerit Points System". For offences related to public market stalls, the stall tenancy may be terminated according to the current mechanism.

     The spokesman appealed to the food trade not to use sulphur dioxide in fresh, chilled or frozen meat and to comply with the law.

     "We will continue to closely monitor the situation and conduct blitz inspections against those stalls with conviction records to ensure compliance. If there is sufficient evidence, prosecutions will be taken," he added.

Ends/Thursday, May 19, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:32


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