CFS announces food safety report for November

     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (December 30) released the findings of its food safety report for last month. The results of about 14 000 food samples tested were found to be satisfactory except for 22 unsatisfactory samples which were announced earlier. The overall satisfactory rate was 99.8 per cent.
     A CFS spokesman said about 1 600 food samples were collected for microbiological tests, some 3 900 samples were taken for chemical tests and the remaining 8 500 (including about 8 100 taken from food imported from Japan) were collected to test radiation levels.
     The microbiological tests covered pathogens and hygienic indicators, while the chemical tests aimed at detecting pesticides, preservatives, metallic contaminants, colouring matters, veterinary drug residues and others.
     The samples comprised about 3 900 samples of vegetables and fruit and their products; 800 samples of meat and poultry and their products; 1 400 samples of aquatic and related products; 1 100 samples of milk, milk products and frozen confections; 900 samples of cereals, grains and their products; and 5 900 samples of other food commodities (including beverages, bakery products and snacks).
     The 22 unsatisfactory samples comprised eight vegetable and fruit samples detected with pesticide residues exceeding the legal limits; four frozen confection samples detected with counts of hygiene indicator organisms exceeding the legal limits; three hairy crab samples detected with dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at total levels exceeding the action level adopted by the CFS; two samples of canned fried dace detected with malachite green; a fresh pork sample found to contain a preservative, sulphur dioxide; a prepackaged cheese sample found to contain sodium nitrite, a preservative, at a level exceeding the legal limit; a prepackaged dried mushroom sample detected with a metallic contaminant, cadmium, at a level exceeding the legal limit; a sample of prepackaged cut papaya found to contain Salmonella, a pathogen; and a sample of a made-to-order salad found contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a pathogen.
     The CFS has taken follow-up action on the unsatisfactory samples including informing the vendors concerned of the test results, instructing them to stop selling the affected 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, 2014, as of November 30 this year, the CFS had taken over 87 800 food samples at import, wholesale and retail levels for testing for pesticide residues. The overall unsatisfactory rate is less than 0.2 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/or 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 Good Agricultural Practice when applying pesticides. In this connection, consumption of food with pesticide residues higher than the MRL will not necessarily lead to any adverse health effects.
     Dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs are a group of chemical compounds which are persistent environmental pollutants and highly toxic. They can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and can cause cancer. In general, some foods may contain dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs. However, the concentrations will not cause acute adverse effects. As regards chronic health effects, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives have established a Provisional Tolerable Monthly Intake (PTMI) of 70 pg/kg of body weight per month for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs. Occasional short-term exposure above the PTMI would have no health consequences provided that the average intake over a long period is not exceeded.
     Malachite green is a type of industrial dye and has been used for treating infections in fish. Major agricultural economies such as the Mainland, the European Union, Canada and the United States prohibit the use of the chemical in food fish. According to the Harmful Substances in Food Regulations (Cap 132AF), no food sold in Hong Kong is allowed to contain malachite green. Offenders will be prosecuted and will be liable to a fine of $50,000 and to imprisonment for six months upon conviction.
     To reduce the risk of Listeriosis, the CFS advises those belonging to the high-risk groups, i.e. chronic disease patients, pregnant women, infants, the elderly and those with a weaker immune system, to avoid eating high-risk food, including refrigerated ready-to-eat food (such as smoked salmon, smoked ham, cooked deli meats) with a long shelf life (over five days), cheese made with unpasteurised milk (including soft and semi-soft cheese), and prepackaged and pre-made salads.
     The spokesman also 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, December 30, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:30