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Microbiological Guidelines for Food takes effect today

     The "Microbiological Guidelines for Food" (the Guidelines), recently published by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, took effect today (August 14) to replace  the "Microbiological Guidelines for Ready-to-eat Food" and its supplementary information. A spokesman for the CFS said that the Guidelines brought Hong Kong's microbiological criteria more into line with the international standards and helped to better protect public health and consumer interests.

     The spokesman said, "As one of the Government's ongoing efforts to enhance food safety, different standards and guidelines for food are subject to regular review. To keep the local microbiological guidelines abreast of international developments and advancements in food science and technology, CFS amended the 'Microbiological Guidelines for Ready-to-eat Food' and its supplementary information and consulted the food trade and other local stakeholders during the process. The new Guidelines, which included both ready-to-eat and non-ready-to-eat food, were endorsed by the Expert Committee on Food Safety (Expert Committee)."

     The "Microbiological Guidelines for Ready-to-eat Food" provided microbiological criteria for food items for which no established microbiological standards were stipulated in the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Chapter 132) and its subsidiary legislations. It was amended in 2007 and supplementary information on the recommended microbiological criteria for bottled water, edible ice and non-bottled drinks was also provided in 2009. To update the guidelines, a working group was formed under the Expert Committee with an aim to recommend further amendments. The new Guidelines have incorporated and revised relevant information and criteria.

     In drafting the amendments, the working group made reference to the latest guidelines and criteria recommended by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), the "Guidelines for Assessing the Microbiological Safety of Ready-to-eat Foods Placed on the Market" published by the Health Protection Agency in the United Kingdom (the UK HPA Guidelines) and also took the local situation into consideration. Major revisions were: (1) the microbiological criteria for ready-to-eat food in general including aerobic colony count (ACC), hygienic indicator organisms and specific foodborne pathogens; (2) supplementing the microbiological criteria for powdered formula for infants, young children and special medical purposes, ready-to-eat spices as well as live or raw bivalve molluscs intended for direct consumption; and (3) updating the microbiological criteria for natural mineral waters.

     The food categorisation for ACC assessment in ready-to-eat food in general was formulated with reference to the UK HPA Guidelines and took the local situation into account. The new classification is more scientific, the spokesman noted.

     The World Trade Organization has been notified of the revised Guidelines.

     The CFS held a seminar for the food trade today to promote the Guidelines. The final version of the Guidelines has been uploaded to the CFS webpage

Ends/Thursday, August 14, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:42


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