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Satisfactory results for tests on hot pot food samples (second phase)

     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has recently completed the second phase of a survey assessing the food safety of hot pot cuisine. The results showed that all 136 hot pot food samples passed the tests.

     "Hong Kong people like eating hot pot meals. As food additives, such as colouring matters, preservatives, plasticisers and maleic acid, may be used during the making of hot pot ingredients, beverages and sauces, the CFS conducted this survey in a bid to provide timely food safety information to consumers and the trade. The first-phase test results were announced on September 29, with all samples passing the tests," a spokesman for the CFS said today (December 29).

     During the second-phase survey, the CFS collected different kinds of hot pot food samples, including meat and meat products (such as beef balls and pork balls), aquatic and related products (such as fish balls), vegetables and bean products (such as gluten puffs), noodles, soup bases, beverages (such as sour plum drinks and sugar cane drinks) and sauces from various retailers (including online retailers) for chemical tests, which included testing for colouring matters, preservatives, plasticisers and metallic contaminants.

     Despite the fact that all the samples tested were satisfactory in the two-phase survey, the spokesman reminded the public that food safety is a shared responsibility and all those involved in the food supply chain - from farms and food manufacturers to food handlers and consumers - should put in place safety measures. He advised the trade not to entertain orders beyond handling capacity. The trade should also comply with the legal requirements, follow Good Manufacturing Practice, use permitted food additives only in an appropriate manner, and check the quality of food and ingredients upon delivery.

     Furthermore, he suggested food handlers and consumers apply the following Five Keys to Food Safety when handling and preparing food:

Choose wisely
* Patronise hygienic and reliable shops for hot pot ingredients or soup bases and select fresh foods more; and
* For prepackaged foods or soup bases, check whether the packaging is intact and pay attention to the expiry date on the food label.

Keep clean
* Observe good personal and food hygiene when preparing foods. All food ingredients must be thoroughly washed;
* After washing the vegetables, soak them in water for one hour for reducing pesticide residues;
* Poultry meat, pork and beef should be washed and sliced into thin strips for easy cooking;
* For shellfish like scallops and geoduck, scrub the shells thoroughly and remove the internal organs;
* Before eating and handling food ingredients, wash hands thoroughly; and
* If there is a wound on the hand, cover it properly with a waterproof bandage or wear a glove before handling food.

Separate raw and cooked food
* When shopping for hot pot ingredients, buy prepackaged foods first and raw meat, poultry and seafood last;
* When shopping or delivering food, raw meat should be kept separately from other foods to prevent its juices from contaminating other foods; and
* Handle raw and cooked foods carefully and separate them completely during the cooking process. Use separate sets of chopsticks and utensils with different appearances to handle raw and cooked foods and avoid contact between raw and cooked foods on the table to prevent cross-contamination.

Cook thoroughly
* During the whole eating process, take thoroughly cooked food out of the pot only when the soup is boiling completely. Whenever water or soup is added to the pot, wait until it is boiling hot before adding food for cooking;
* Shrimps should be fully cooked until the shells turn red and the flesh turns white and opaque. Shucked oysters should be cooked in the boiling water for at least three minutes before consumption; and
* If raw eggs are used as hot pot ingredients, the eggs must be washed thoroughly to remove the dirt on the shell before consumption. Wash hands thoroughly after handling or touching eggs. Eggs with cracked shells should be discarded immediately as they are prone to being contaminated by pathogenic micro-organisms. Do not consume cooked foods that are mixed with raw eggs as pathogenic micro-organisms may be present in raw eggs.

Safe temperature
* Most hot pot ingredients should be stored in a refrigerator at 4 degrees Celsius or below, while frozen foods should be stored in a freezer at -18 degrees C or below; and
* Do not thaw frozen foods at room temperature as bacteria may multiply rapidly in food. It is preferable to defrost frozen foods in a refrigerator or microwave oven.

     "People should also pay attention to the amount of food consumed and follow a balanced diet when having hot pot. To reduce fat intake, it is preferable to choose a clear soup base as it contains less fat than bone, sacha and mala soup bases. Eat vegetables first to fill oneself up and then meat to prevent overeating. Members of the public should also eat more vegetables with high dietary fibre and less fatty meats and animal offal, and use less sauce and condiments. If there are nutrition labels for hot pot products, make healthier food choices by referring to their nutritional contents and choosing those lower in fat, sodium and sugars," the spokesman said.

Ends/Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Issued at HKT 14:30


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