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Dried bamboo fungus sample detected with preservative exceeding legal limit and in breach of food labelling regulation
     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced today (November 14) that a sample of prepackaged dried bamboo fungus was found to contain sulphur dioxide, a preservative, at a level exceeding the legal limit and not declared on the product's food label; and there was no nutrition label. Follow-up is in progress.

     "The CFS collected the sample from a retail outlet in Sheung Wan under its routine Food Surveillance Programme for testing. The test result showed that it contained sulphur dioxide at a level of 3 600 parts per million (ppm), exceeding the legal limit of 500 ppm, and the preservative was not declared on the food label and there was no nutrition label," the spokesman said.

     Product details are as follows:

Product name: Dried bamboo fungus
Brand: Not available in English
Place of origin: China
Distributor: Luen Kee Hoo Co Ltd
Net weight: 100 grams per pack
Best-before date: July 14, 2018

     The CFS has informed the vendor concerned of the irregularities and instructed it to stop selling and remove from shelves the affected batch of the product. Should there be sufficient evidence, prosecution will be instituted.

     Sulphur dioxide is a commonly used preservative in a variety of foods including dried vegetables, dried fruits, pickled vegetables and meat products. This preservative is of low toxicity. As it is water soluble, most of it can be removed through washing and cooking. Based on the level of sulphur dioxide detected in the unsatisfactory sample, adverse health effects will not be caused under usual consumption. However, for individuals who are allergic to this preservative, there may be symptoms of shortness of breath, headache and nausea. The public are advised to seek medical treatment if they feel unwell after eating the food.

     The spokesman reminded the food trade that the use of preservatives in food must comply with the Preservatives in Food Regulation (Cap 132BD). Furthermore, the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) Regulations (Cap 132W) require that the food ingredients of all prepackaged food for sale in Hong Kong should be listed out on the list of ingredients (including additives) and its nutrition label. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $50,000 and six months' imprisonment for breach of the regulations.

     Members of the public should buy food from reliable suppliers, and maintain a balanced diet so as to avoid excessive intake of certain chemicals as a result of frequent consumption of a small range of food items.

     The CFS will alert the trade, continue to follow up on the incident and take appropriate action. Investigation is ongoing.
Ends/Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Issued at HKT 18:35
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