CFS announces food safety report for June

     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) today (July 31) released the findings of its food safety report for last month. The results of about 13 000 food samples tested were found to be satisfactory except for 38 unsatisfactory samples which were announced earlier. The overall satisfactory rate was 99.7 per cent.

     A CFS spokesman said about 4 300 food samples had been taken for chemical tests. Some 1 300 samples were collected for microbiological tests and the remaining 7 400 (including about 6 900 taken from food imported from Japan) were collected for testing of radiation levels.

     The microbiological tests covered pathogens and hygienic indicators, while the chemical tests aimed at detecting pesticides, preservatives, metallic contamination, colouring matters, veterinary drug residues and others.

     The samples comprised about 3 400 samples of vegetables and fruits and their products; 800 samples of meat and poultry and their products; 1 600 samples of aquatic and related products; 900 samples of milk, milk products and frozen confections; 1 100 samples of cereals, grains and their products; and 5 300 samples of other food commodities (including beverages, bakery products and snacks).

     The 38 unsatisfactory samples included 21 vegetables and fruits found with pesticide residues exceeding the legal limits; 13 durians imported from Thailand detected with a colouring matter, curcumin, in the husks; two ice-creams found with coliform counts exceeding the legal limit; one portion of rice imported from Japan detected with excessive cadmium, a metallic contaminant; and one prepacked mustard imported from Taiwan contained undeclared permitted colouring matter, Sunset Yellow FCF.

     The CFS has taken follow-up action on the unsatisfactory samples including informing the trade concerned of the test results, instructing the trade concerned to stop sale of the incriminated food items and tracing the sources of the food items in question.

     Since the Pesticide Residues in Food Regulation (Cap 132CM) came into effect on August 1 last year, as of June 30 the CFS had taken over 25 700 food samples at import, wholesale and retail levels for testing for pesticide residues and a total of 98 vegetable and fruit samples have been detected to have excessive pesticide residues. The overall unsatisfactory rate is less than 0.4 per cent.

     The spokesman added that excessive pesticide residues in food may arise from the trade not observing Good Agricultural Practice, e.g. using excessive pesticides and not allowing sufficient time for pesticides to decompose before harvesting. The Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) of pesticide residues in food is not a safety indicator. It is the maximum concentration of pesticide residues to be permitted in a food commodity under the Good Agricultural Practice when applying pesticides. In this connection, consumption of food with pesticide residues higher than the MRL does not necessarily mean it could lead to any adverse health effect.

     Furthermore, although curcumin is a food colour of low toxicity, the law has a stringent requirement on its use. The trade should observe the relevant laws and regulations, follow Good Manufacturing Practice and use food additives in an appropriate manner. According to the Colouring Matter in Food Regulations (Cap 132H), although colouring matter can be added to processed food, it should not be added to meat, game, poultry, fish, fruit or vegetables in a raw and unprocessed state. Upon conviction, offenders shall be liable to a fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months.

     The spokesman reminded the food trade to ensure that food is fit for consumption and meets legal requirements. Consumers should patronise reliable shops when buying food and maintain a balanced diet to minimise food risks.

Ends/Friday, July 31, 2015
Issued at HKT 14:31