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CFS announces food safety report for December and summary of food surveillance programme for 2016
     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (January 27) released the findings of its food safety report for last month (December 2016). The results of about 9 800 food samples tested were found to be satisfactory except for 13 unsatisfactory samples which were announced earlier. The overall satisfactory rate was 99.9 per cent.
      A CFS spokesman said about 1 100 food samples were collected for microbiological tests, some 1 000 samples were taken for chemical tests and the remaining 7 700 (including about 7 300 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 1 500 samples of vegetables and fruit and their products; 500 samples of meat and poultry and their products; 1 600 samples of aquatic and related products; 700 samples of milk, milk products and frozen confections; 800 samples of cereals, grains and their products; and 4 700 samples of other food commodities (including beverages, bakery products and snacks).
      The 13 unsatisfactory samples comprised six vegetable and fruit samples detected with pesticide residues exceeding the legal limits; three aquatic product samples found to contain a preservative, sulphur dioxide, at levels exceeding the legal limit; a prepackaged preserved pomelo sample found to contain benzoic acid, a preservative, at a level exceeding the legal limit; two bottled milk samples detected with total bacterial counts exceeding the legal limit; and a common oriental clam sample detected with a veterinary drug, chloramphenicol.
      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 December 31 last year, the CFS had taken over 91 700 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.
      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.
Summary of food surveillance programme for 2016
     Concluding the food surveillance programme for 2016, the spokesman said that apart from routine food surveillance, the CFS conducted a number of targeted as well as seasonal and popular food surveillance projects.
     "In addition to 73 700 samples of imported Japanese food taken for testing of radiation level in response to the Fukushima nuclear power plant incident in Japan, about 65 500 samples were tested by the CFS last year. The overall satisfactory rate was 99.8 per cent, which was comparable to the results in recent years. This indicates that food safety has been maintained at a high standard in Hong Kong," he said.
     "The exceedances or breaches for most of the unsatisfactory samples were not serious and would not pose adverse health effects to the general public. For individual food items with unsatisfactory test results, the CFS has taken prompt and effective risk management action to safeguard public health," he added.
     He added that in planning the food surveillance programme, the CFS would always take into consideration a number of factors such as the food consumption level and the risk of the food concerned in deciding the number of samples to be tested, the frequency of sampling as well as the testing parameters. In addition, the CFS would also adjust its food surveillance programmes and strengthen relevant testing with regard to local and overseas food incidents as well as past surveillance data, in particular breaches of regulatory requirements that occurred more frequently, so as to safeguard food safety in Hong Kong.

Ends/Friday, January 27, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:30
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