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Sulphur dioxide found in fresh pork sold by fresh provision shop

     A spokesman for the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) today (March 11) said that a sample of fresh pork was detected with sulphur dioxide, a preservative which is not permitted to be used in fresh meat. Prosecution will be taken against the vendor concerned.

     "The CFS is conducting a targeted food surveillance project to assess the use of sulphur dioxide in meat. Among the samples collected so far, a fresh pork sample taken from a fresh provision shop was found to contain the preservative at a level of 84 parts per million. Based on the level of sulphur dioxide detected in the sample, it is unlikely to pose any adverse health effect upon normal consumption. The CFS has issued a warning letter to the vendor. Prosecution will also be taken. The CFS will also take a follow-up sample from the vendor for testing to ensure compliance with relevant statutory provisions," the spokesman said.

     "Sulphur dioxide is a commonly used preservative in a variety of foods including dried fruits, pickled vegetables and meat products such as sausages and grilled burgers, 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 been found illegally using sulphur dioxide to make the meat look fresher.

     "This preservative 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 to humans. However, susceptible individuals who are allergic to sulphur dioxide may experience breathing difficulty, headache and nausea," he added.

     The test results of other samples taken for the targeted surveillance will be announced later.

     The spokesman said that the CFS would continue to monitor the use of sulphur dioxide in meat. He reminded the food trade to comply with the law and not to sell fresh, chilled or frozen meat adulterated with sulphur dioxide. Selling such meat is an offence which carries a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine and six months' imprisonment.

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

     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 maintain a balanced diet to avoid excessive exposure to food preservatives from a small range of food items.

Ends/Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Issued at HKT 19:25


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