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Test results of targeted surveillance on use of sulphur dioxide in meat (Phase II) satisfactory

     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) today (September 27) announced the results of the second phase testing of a targeted food surveillance project assessing the use of sulphur dioxide in meat. All 162 fresh meat samples passed the test.

     "The beef, pork and mutton samples were collected from fresh provision shops and market stalls between July and September for testing," a spokesman for the CFS said.

     Sulphur dioxide is a commonly used preservative in a variety of foods including dried fruits, pickled vegetables and sausages, but under the Preservatives in Food Regulation (subsidiary legislation of Cap 132) it is not permitted in fresh, chilled or frozen meat. Nonetheless, individual meat traders have occasionally been found illegally using sulphur dioxide to make the meat look fresher.

     "Following repeated detection of the preservative in fresh meat samples, the CFS has launched targeted surveillance project regularly to assess the use of the chemical in meat in recent years. This year the CFS is conducting the project in three phases and so far, all test results are satisfactory," the spokesman said.

     The spokesman appealed to the food trade to comply with the law and not to use sulphur dioxide in fresh, chilled or frozen meat. Selling fresh, chilled or frozen meat containing sulphur dioxide is an offence which carries a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine and six months' imprisonment.

     Upon conviction, the FEHD would also suspend or cancel the fresh provision shop licence concerned under the Demerit Points System. For offences related to public market stalls, the tenancy would be terminated in accordance with the current mechanism.

     The CFS will continue to closely monitor the situation and conduct blitz inspections on stalls with conviction records to ensure compliance. If there is sufficient evidence, prosecution action will be taken.

     Sulphur dioxide is of low toxicity. As it is water-soluble, most of it can be removed through washing and cooking. Upon normal consumption, it should pose no adverse health effects on humans. However, susceptible individuals who are allergic to sulphur dioxide may experience breathing difficulty, headache and nausea.

     The spokesman advised members of the public to purchase meat from reliable market stalls or fresh provision shops. They should avoid buying or consuming meat which is unnaturally red and have a balanced diet to avoid excessive exposure to food preservatives from a small range of food items.

Ends/Friday, September 27, 2013
Issued at HKT 15:01


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