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Customs seizes vegetables falsely labelled as organic (with photo)

     The Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) seized about 100 catties of assorted vegetables falsely claimed to be organic vegetables worth about $1,140 during a raid on a vegetable retailer in Causeway Bay last week. During the operation, a shop manageress aged 31 was arrested for further investigation.

     On June 22, the department received a complaint that a vegetable retail shop in Tin Hau, Causeway Bay, was selling vegetables falsely claiming to be produce from an organic farm registered with Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre Certification Limited (HKORC) of the Hong Kong Baptist University.  

     Customs Officers raided the shop immediately on the same day. During the operation, the shop was found displaying prominently a copy of an HKORC certificate that showed that the vegetables for sale were produce from a farm in Yuen Long certified by HKORC as a farm complying with the organic production and processing standard for vegetables. Investigation revealed that the vegetables were not produced by that organic farm but came from the Vegetable Marketing Organisation at Cheung Sha Wan Vegetable Wholesale Market and the Fruit Wholesale Market in Yau Ma Tei.

     Customs Officers seized 107 catties of misrepresented organic vegetables including potatoes, tomatoes, yams, pumpkins, white cabbages, watermelons, chestnuts, maize and beans on the spot. The arrested shop manageress is now on police bail pending further investigation.

     A Customs spokesman said the retail prices of organic vegetables are about double those of ordinary ones. Unscrupulous vegetable traders might falsely claim their products are organic with certification from an approved body to make a higher profit.

     He added that C&ED will continue to crack down on unscrupulous retailers supplying goods with false trade descriptions.

     Under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, any person who in the course of business supplies or offers to supply goods with a false trade description commits a criminal offence. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years.  

     Customs appeals to traders to abide by the law and reminds consumers to consider buying organic vegetables from reputable retailers.

     Members of the public are urged to report any suspected violations of the Ordinance via the Customs 24-hour hotline on 2545 6182.

Ends/Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Issued at HKT 18:22


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