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CFS announces food safety report for January

     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) today (February 28) released the findings of its food safety report for last month. Of the 10,100 food samples tested, eight samples were found to be unsatisfactory and the overall satisfactory rate was 99.9 per cent. The unsatisfactory samples, which include vegetables, aquatic and milk products, failed to pass chemical and microbiological tests.  The test results for two of them were announced earlier.

     A CFS spokesman said about 3,400 food samples had been taken for chemical tests. Some 1,400 samples were collected for microbiological tests and the remaining 5,400 (including about 4,600 samples taken from food imported from Japan) for testing of radiation levels.

     The microbiological tests covered pathogens and hygienic indicators while the chemical tests aimed at detecting pesticides, preservatives, metallic contamination, colouring matters, veterinary drug residues, plasticisers and others.

     The samples included vegetables and fruits and their products; meat and poultry and their products; aquatic and related products; milk, milk products and frozen confections; and cereals, grains and their products.

Vegetables, fruits and their products

     The CFS took about 2,800 samples of fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, preserved vegetables and pickled fruits, dried vegetables and ready-to-eat vegetables for analyses.

     Other than an unsatisfactory sample of preserved pomelo found to contain excessive benzoic acid, a preservative, that was announced earlier, a sample of dried white fungus and a sample of bamboo fungus were found to contain the preservative sulphur dioxide at respective levels of 3,400 parts per million (ppm) and 4,500 ppm, exceeding the legal limit of 500 ppm.

     "Sulphur dioxide is of low toxicity and will not pose adverse health effects to consumers upon normal consumption. However, for individuals who are allergic to it, symptoms of breathing difficulty, headache or nausea may develop. As sulphur dioxide is water soluble, most of it can be removed through washing, soaking and cooking," the spokesman said.

     Furthermore, a Chinese celery sample was found to contain a metal contaminant, cadmium, at a level of 0.18 ppm, exceeding the legal limit of 0.1 ppm.

     "Based on the level detected, it is unlikely that the sample would pose any adverse health effect upon normal consumption. Fruit and vegetables are important components of a healthy diet as they are good sources of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. They should be washed thoroughly and soaked before cooking to remove contaminants adhering to the surface," the spokesman said.

     The remaining samples for other tests (e.g. pesticides and pathogens) were satisfactory.

Meat, poultry and their products

     The CFS completed the testing of about 500 samples, including fresh, chilled and frozen pork, beef and poultry, ready-to-eat dishes of meat and poultry served at food establishments, and meat- and poultry-made products such as Chinese preserved meat, sausages and ham. All results were satisfactory.

Aquatic and related products

     The CFS took some 1,300 samples of fish, shellfish, shrimp, prawn, crab and squid and their products for analyses. A raw oyster sample was found to contain norovirus nucleic acid. "Norovirus may cause vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and low-grade fever," the spokesman said.

     The remaining samples for other tests (e.g. pesticides, veterinary drug residues and colouring matters) were all satisfactory.

Milk, milk products and frozen confections

     About 600 samples of ice-cream, cheese, milk and milk products were collected for tests. A raw milk sample (before heat treatment) was detected to have coliform organisms. It was also found to contain 11 million bacteria per millilitre, exceeding the legal limit of no more than 200,000 bacteria per millilitre.

     "The fact that the total bacteria count and coliform organisms exceed the legal limits indicates that the hygienic conditions were unsatisfactory, but does not mean it would lead to food poisoning. The raw milk sample was collected at the import level. The concerned consignment has been disposed of and no affected product entered the local market," the spokesman said.

     Results of other tests (e.g. melamine, preservatives, veterinary drug residues and colouring matters) were satisfactory.

Cereals, grains and their products

     The CFS took about 400 samples of rice, noodles, flour, bread and breakfast cereals for analyses. All samples passed the tests.

Other food commodities

     The CFS took about 4,500 food samples consisting of mixed dishes, dim sum, beverages, sushi, sashimi, sugar, sweets, condiments, sauces, snacks, eggs and egg products for tests.

     Other than the candied lotus seed sample found to contain excessive sulphur dioxide announced earlier, a sample of coconut tart was found to contain Salmonella. Salmonella infection may cause gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea, the spokesman noted.

     Samples for other tests (e.g. colouring matters, metallic contaminants and veterinary drug residues) were found to be satisfactory.


     The CFS has taken follow-up actions on all the unsatisfactory samples including tracing the source of the food items in question, asking the vendors concerned to stop the sale and dispose of the affected food, taking follow-up food samples and issuing warning letters. Prosecution will be taken if there is sufficient evidence.

     The spokesman reminded consumers to patronise reliable shops when buying food and to maintain a balanced diet to minimise food risk. Those with a history of food allergy should read food labels of pre-packaged foods to avoid certain preservatives, which can be allergenic, as appropriate (e.g. asthmatic patients should avoid ingesting sulphur dioxide as they are allergic to this preservative).

     He also advised the trade to comply with the legal requirements, follow good manufacturing practice and only use permitted food additives in an appropriate manner, and observe the "Five Keys to Food Safety" to minimise the risk of food poisoning. Retailers should source food from reliable suppliers and maintain a good recording system in accordance with the Food Safety Ordinance to allow source tracing if needed.

Ends/Thursday, February 28, 2013
Issued at HKT 14:31


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