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CFS follows up on illegal import of frozen beef and suspected frozen beef fat from Japan

     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) announced today (May 19) that a consignment of frozen beef and suspected frozen beef fat 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.

     "Today the Customs and Excise Department and the CFS conducted a joint operation and inspected a consignment claimed to be frozen products imported from Japan at Kwai Chung Customhouse. After examination, frozen beef and suspected frozen beef fat suspected to be illegally imported from Japan were 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 frozen beef amounted to 366 cartons. Information on the product labels showed that 209 cartons were from three Japanese prefectures under an import ban (including Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba), and 157 cartons from other regions of Japan (including Hokkaido, Yamagata, Akita, Aomori, Shimane, Fukuoka and Nagasaki). Thirty-eight cartons of suspected frozen beef fat without proper labelling were also seized. The information on the cartons showed that the product concerned was from Chiba.

     For the sake of prudence, samples of the products concerned were taken for testing of radiation levels and all test results were satisfactory.

     In response to the Fukushima nuclear power plant incident in Japan in 2011, the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene 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 or prior written permission granted by the FEHD. An offender 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.

     "As meat from dubious sources and not inspected may pose health risks to the public, the CFS and relevant departments will strive to deter the illegal import of meat into Hong Kong and step up surveillance to safeguard food safety and public health," the spokesman said.

     The spokesman reminded the trade to comply with the law and not to import or sell meat from dubious sources and without health certificates. Members of the public should purchase meat from licensed and reputable vendors.

     The CFS will continue to closely follow up on the incident and take appropriate action, including informing the Japanese authorities of the incident. Investigation is ongoing.

Ends/Thursday, May 19, 2016
Issued at HKT 21:33


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