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Test results of targeted surveillance on Staphylococcus aureus in ready-to-eat food all satisfactory

     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has announced that test results for samples collected in a recently completed targeted food surveillance project on Staphylococcus aureus in ready-to-eat food were all satisfactory.

     Some 600 samples were collected from more than 400 different locations, including retail outlets and food factories, for Staphylococcus aureus testing. The samples comprised meat and poultry and their products (for example shredded chicken, siu mei and lo mei); cut fruit, juice and salad; sushi and sashimi; dessert; Chinese cold dishes; and bakery products, sandwiches and steamed rice rolls.

     A spokesman for the CFS said today (October 7), "Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterium that can cause food poisoning. It exists widely in our environment and is commonly found in the nasal cavity, throat, hair and skin of healthy individuals. It presents in large numbers in wounds and infections. If food handlers do not observe good personal hygiene, Staphylococcus aureus can pass to foods from them. In addition, as the above-mentioned foods require considerable handling during preparation and no subsequent cooking is required before consumption, food poisoning caused by this pathogen is usually associated with consumption of these foods."

     He added, "It is also worth noting that food stored at ambient temperature for a prolonged period may also allow the bacterium to multiply and elaborate staphylococcal enterotoxins, and consuming such contaminated food may cause food poisoning. Food risk cannot be eliminated by reheating as enterotoxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus cannot be destroyed under normal cooking conditions. Common symptoms of food poisoning caused by Staphylococcus aureus include nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, often accompanied by diarrhoea. Recovery is usually within two days, but can take longer in severe cases that may require hospitalisation."

     Despite the fact that none of the samples tested in the surveillance project contained excessive Staphylococcus aureus, the spokesman appealed to the food trade to handle food properly by applying the five keys to food safety and to not entertain orders beyond handling capacity. To prevent food poisoning caused by this pathogen, members of the trade should always wash hands thoroughly with running water and soap before and after handling foods, or after going to the toilet; avoid handling cooked foods with bare hands; and stop handling foods when there is an open wound or skin infection. They should also cook food thoroughly and serve cooked food as soon as possible. Cold dishes should be kept at 4 degrees Celsius or below and hot foods at 60 degrees C or above if they are not consumed immediately to prevent bacterial growth.

     The spokesman also reminded consumers to patronise licensed and reliable premises for buying food and consider the food premises' production capacity when making massive orders. At the same time, people should always avoid storage of food at room temperature for more than two hours. Leftovers should be discarded or otherwise be stored properly in a refrigerator at 4 degrees C or below.

     "The CFS will continue to enhance publicity and education through publications and leaflets to prevent food poisoning, and will collaborate with the Department of Health in the investigation of food poisoning and take samples of suspect affected food for analysis when necessary," he added.

Ends/Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Issued at HKT 17:20


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