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Sulphur dioxide found in fresh beef sold by market stall

     A spokesman for the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) today (April 15) said that a sample of fresh beef 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.

     "Following up a food complaint, the CFS took the fresh beef sample from a stall at Fa Yuen Street Market for testing and it was found to contain sulphur dioxide at a level of 3 400 parts per million. Based on the level of sulphur dioxide detected in the sample, development of acute symptoms is unlikely upon normal consumption. Nevertheless, adverse health effects (such as stomach irritation) to consumers cannot be excluded if the consumption of fresh beef with this level of sulphur dioxide lasts for a prolonged period of time. Susceptible individuals who are allergic to this preservative may experience breathing difficulty, headache and nausea. The CFS has issued a warning letter to the vendor. Prosecution will be taken and a follow-up sample will also be taken 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," he added.

     The spokesman 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 malnutrition or excessive exposure to chemicals from a small range of food items.

Ends/Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Issued at HKT 19:10


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