CFS follows up on illegal import of frozen beef from Japan

     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) announced today (April 1) that a consignment of frozen beef from Japan, including from the prefectures under an import ban, was illegally imported into Hong Kong. All products have been seized and none have entered the market. Follow-up is in progress.

     "The CFS mounted a joint operation with the Customs and Excise Department today and inspected a consignment claimed to be frozen fully cooked meat imported from Japan at Kwai Chung Customhouse.  After examination, frozen beef suspected to be illegally imported from Japan was found in the container, all without necessary import documents including import licences, health certificates, written permission from the FEHD and certificates of radiation levels from the place of origin," a CFS spokesman said.

     The seized consignment of frozen beef amounted to 337 cartons. Information on the product labels showed that 101 cartons were from three Japanese prefectures under an import ban (including Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba), 116 cartons from other regions of Japan (including Hokkaido, Yamagata and Akita), and the remaining 120 cartons with unknown origin. Samples of the products concerned were taken for testing of radiation levels and all test results were satisfactory.

     Investigation by the CFS found that the importer concerned was not a food importer registered with the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene (DFEH).

     In response to the Fukushima nuclear power plant incident in Japan in 2011, DFEH issued an order under Section 78B of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132) to prohibit the import of vegetables and fruits, milk, milk beverages and milk powder from the five most affected prefectures of Japan, namely Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba and Gunma. The CFS also prohibits the import of all chilled or frozen game, meat and poultry, all poultry eggs and all live, chilled or frozen aquatic products from the five prefectures to Hong Kong, unless accompanied by a certificate issued by the competent authority of Japan certifying that the radiation levels do not exceed the guideline levels.

     "The aforesaid order is still in force. The food trade must strictly comply with the order and not to import illegally any restricted food from the five Japanese prefectures concerned. Anyone found guilty of contravening any terms of the order is liable to a maximum fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for 12 months," the spokesman said.

     Under the Food Safety Ordinance (Cap. 612), any person who carries on a food importation/distribution business shall register with the DFEH and keep the relevant transaction records. According to the Imported Game, Meat, Poultry and Eggs Regulations (Cap. 132AK), any person who imports game, meat, poultry or eggs into Hong Kong should produce a health certificate issued by the relevant authorities of the place of origin and/or prior written permission granted by the FEHD.  An offender breaching the aforementioned regulations is liable on conviction to a fine of $50,000 and six months' imprisonment."

     Furthermore, in accordance with the Import and Export Ordinance (Cap. 60), any person who imports any article specified in Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Import and Export (General) Regulations (Cap. 60 sub. leg. A), except under and in accordance with an import licence, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of $500,000 and to imprisonment for two years.

     The CFS will continue to closely follow up on the incident and take appropriate action. Prosecution will be instituted against the importer concerned should there be sufficient evidence. The CFS has also notified the Japanese authorities of the incident. Investigation is ongoing.

Ends/Friday, April 1, 2016
Issued at HKT 22:41