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2011 2nd Issue

Feature Articles

Fukushima Nuclear Incident and Food Safety

Staff of the CFS uses a hand-held survey meter to check the radiation levels of the food imported from Japan
Staff of the CFS uses a hand-held survey meter to check the radiation levels of the food imported from Japan

 

Background

On 11 March 2011 , a severe earthquake hit the east coast of the Miyagi prefecture of Japan which caused a devastating tsunami inflicting heavy casualties and massive destruction. The earthquake and tsunami damaged the cooling system of four reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant resulting in release of radioactive substances in the atmosphere and surrounding environment. The radioactive substances not only contaminated the surroundings but also the food produced in some areas of Japan .

     

Surveillance Operation

In view of the nuclear incident in Fukushima , the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) has stepped up surveillance at import level on food products from Japan , such as vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and aquatic products for radiological testing since 12 March 2011 . Samples of Japanese food were also taken at retail level for testing of radiation levels to ensure that food imported from Japan was safe for consumption.

  Hand-held survey meter used by the CFS
Hand-held survey meter used by the CFS

Results and Related Measures

Food products imported from Japan make up a low market share in Hong Kong, from less than 1% (e.g. vegetables and fruits) to about 5 % (e.g. meat, milk and frozen confections). As of August 2011, the CFS found that three samples of vegetables, including a spinach sample, a white radish sample and a turnip sample, imported from Chiba prefecture of Japan were detected to contain iodine-131 with a level exceeding the standards laid down by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) in the Guideline Levels for Radionuclides in Foods Contaminated following a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency (Guideline Levels). Based on risk assessment, the radiation dose for consumption of the consignment of contaminated foods for a year is equivalent to two-thirds to ten chest X-rays. Although consumption of the food would not pose immediate health risks, the CFS decided to impose import suspension for the sake of public health and food safety. The Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene (DFEH) made an order under section 78B of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap.132) (the Order) to prohibit the import and also the supply or sale within Hong Kong with effect from noon on 24 March 2011 of food products which are/were harvested, manufactured, processed or packed from five prefectures of Japan, i.e. Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba. Chilled or frozen game, meat and poultry, poultry eggs, and live, chilled or frozen aquatic products accompanied by a certificate issued by the competent authority of Japan certifying that the radiation levels do not exceed the standards laid down in the Guideline Levels can be exempted. The above foods which exceeded the standards laid down in the Guideline Levels were disposed of and did not enter the local market.

 

Vegetables and fruits imported from Japan account for less than 1% of market share in Hong KongVegetables and fruits imported from Japan account for less than 1% of market share in Hong Kong

Equipment used by the CFS for testing radiation levels of food
Equipment used by the CFS for testing
radiation levels of food
 

Conclusion

Since the nuclear incident in Fukushima, the CFS has stepped up radiological testing of food products imported from Japan to ensure that the foods are free from radioactive contamination. As of 12 August 2011, a total of 38 693 food samples had been tested. The results were uploaded onto the following web site for reference by the public:

http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/programme/programme_rafs/
programme_rafs_fc_01_30_ Nuclear_Event_and_Food
_ Safety.html

Furthermore, the CFS has kept close communication with the food traders, Japan authorities and the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations to secure the most updated information. The CFS will continue to strengthen food surveillance at both import and retail levels for food imported from Japan and closely monitor the situation.

Radiation and Food Safety

In fact, humans are constantly exposed to different kinds of radiations, including natural radiation. The unit of measurement for radiation dose is millisievert (mSv). The annual dose per capita received by the public in Hong Kong from natural radiation is about 2 mSv; whereas the annual dose per capita worldwide ranges from 1 mSv to 10 mSv. Ever since the Japan Fukushima nuclear incident, the radiation level in Hong Kong has remained normal.

The CFS has in place a routine food surveillance programme to ensure that all food products available on the local market are safe for consumption. In testing the radiation levels of food products, screening is first conducted by hand-held survey meter on the whole consignment, then with samples taken for examination by the Contamination Monitoring System (CMS) . Samples with a level exceeding the standards laid down in the Guideline Levels will be sent to Government Laboratory for further quantitative analysis of radionuclides (including iodine-131, caesium-134 and caesium-137).

The CFS currently adopts the standards laid down by Codex in the Guideline Levels in testing the radiation levels of food. According to Codex, when radionuclide levels in food do not exceed the standards laid down in the Guideline Levels, the food should be considered as safe for human consumption. If a consignment of food is tested to have exceeded the standards, the CFS will immediately mark and seal that consignment and arrange for disposal.

Advice to the public

    • Possible residual surface radioactive materials on food may be reduced by suitable food preparation, such as washing, brushing, scrubbing, or peeling.
    • Concerned members of the public may consult their suppliers if they have doubt about the origin of food imported from Japan .

 

Info Corner

Serving Size of Prepackaged Food for Nutrition Labelling
Trade Guidelines on Serving Size of Prepackaged Food for Nutrition Labelling
The CFS has published guidelines for reference by the trade

 
The Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling)(Amendment: Requirements for Nutrition Labelling and Nutrition Claim) Regulation 2008 (the Amendment Regulation) came into effect in July 2010. Under the Amendment Regulation, all prepackaged foods are required to carry a nutrition label listing the contents of energy and the seven specified nutrients. Recently, the CFS in collaboration with the food trade has prepared the Trade Guidelines on Serving Size of Prepackaged Food for Nutrition Labelling which sets out the principles for determining serving size for different kinds of food. The Guidelines aims at encouraging and assisting the trade to provide information on the serving size of prepackaged food for the purpose of nutrition labelling according to good practice so as to facilitate consumers in understanding the nutrient content of the food product and making healthy food choices.

News on New Dishes

Safety Tips on Preparing “ Spaghetti with Salmon and Spinach in White Sauce ”
Ms NG, the Senior Chef of UCC, gives an interview to the CFS
Ms NG, the Senior Chef of UCC, gives an interview to the CFS
 

To continue with News on New Dishes in the last issue, this time we interviewed UCC, another Signatory of the Food Safety Charter. One of UCC’s very popular dishes is “Spaghetti with Salmon and Spinach in White Sauce”. What are the tips for cooking this dish?

Ms Debbie NG, the Senior Chef of UCC, told us that it is a prepared-when-ordered dish and the tips for cooking it are as follows:

 

How to Prepare

Tips

Receiving
good quality chilled salmon

First of all, buy good quality chilled salmon and store it properly.

Chooseing good quality salmon is very important. Carefully inspect the salmon received to ensure freshness.

Rinsing
Wash the spinach thoroughly. Put the vegetable in icy water and set aside

Wash the spinach thoroughly. Put the vegetable in icy water and set aside.

Keeping the spinach fresh and crunchy by placing it in icy water at low temperature.

Cutting
Dice the salmon into pieces of similar size

Dice the salmon into pieces of similar size.

Keeping the natural taste of salmon and ensuring thorough cooking, the diced salmon should not be too thin or too thick.

Drizzling
Heat olive oil and fry minced garlic until fragrant. Then add the salmon and season it to taste with proper amount of rice wine, black pepper, salt, secret recipe sauce and spinach in order

Heat olive oil and fry minced garlic until fragrant. Then add the salmon and season it to taste with proper amount of rice wine, black pepper, salt, secret recipe sauce and spinach in order.

Adding the ingredients quickly and stir-frying them at the same time to avoid over-cooking the salmon. Drizzling wine over the ingredients can bring out the aroma of salmon and make it tastier (Watch out for the flame while adding wine).

Tossing
Finally, add the spaghetti well cooked in salted water and the white sauce from Japan. Fry and toss all ingredients thoroughly. Dish up and sprinkle it with chopped Chinese parsley

Finally, add the spaghetti well cooked in salted water and the white sauce from Japan. Fry and toss all ingredients thoroughly. Dish up and sprinkle it with chopped Chinese parsley.

Tossing all ingredients well to coat the spaghetti and salmon with the sauce.

Pledges of UCC:

    1. To achieve perfect colour, aroma and taste of food, ingredients have to be fresh and the dish is prepared upon order. Fresh salmon delivered daily, white sauce flown in directly from Japan and skilful cooking are all essential.
    2. As quality ingredients are the foundation of making good dishes, UCC buys Norwegian salmon in one piece from reputable importers and adopts a “consumption-based” approach, i.e. to make purchase according to the estimated consumption of that day to ensure that the freshest salmon is served every day.
    3. The refrigerator in the food room will be cleaned, and its temperature checked and recorded in a record sheet regularly on a daily basis to ensure that it operates properly.
    4. In storing or preparing food, observe the principle of separating raw and cooked foods such as using labels in different colours to identify cutting boards, knives or other utensils for handling raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination .
    5. Provide directives for cooking time and temperature for all dishes to ensure that food is thoroughly cooked .
    6. Various codes of hygiene (e.g. a code to govern the personal hygiene of staff) and operational guidelines (e.g. the temperature of the refrigerator as well as the cleanliness of the food room and eating utensils is regularly checked by designated staff) have been laid down. Some staff are even sent to Japan for training to acquire the knowledge of food hygiene and skills in handling ingredients.

    Finally, in order to let its customers eat at ease, Ms NG said that UCC would continue to uphold the Food Safety Charter, practise the Five Keys to Food Safety and encourage its staff to attend food safety seminars organised by the CFS for the trade.

    Freshly prepared “ Spaghetti with Salmon and Spinach in White Sauce”
    Freshly prepared “ Spaghetti with Salmon and Spinach in White Sauce”

     

    Briefing of Activities

    “Food Safety Charter” Annual Meeting

    Thanks to the active participation of the local food trade and the public recognition of the “Food Safety Charter” (the Charter), the Charter has just entered the third year smoothly.

    The Charter Annual Meeting was held at the Assembly Hall, YMCA of Hong Kong on 24 February 2011 to enhance contact and promote exchange among the signatories. At the meeting, Dr Constance Chan, Controller of the Centre for Food Safety delivered the opening speech, while staff of the CFS gave a briefing on the Food Safety Bill and the record-keeping requirement. A number of experienced trade representatives also shared their knowledge about food purchasing, the principles of hazard analysis and critical control point under ISO 22000 as well as its certification. Lastly, trade representatives exchanged views on food safety promotion at the discussion session.

    Registration of participants at entrance of the venue
    Registration of participants at entrance of the venue

    Dr Constance Chan, Controller of the Centre for Food Safety, delivers the opening speech
    Dr Constance Chan, Controller of the Centre for Food Safety, delivers the opening speech

    Mr LAU Kwong-choi, Director and Purchasing Manager of Banyan Group, explains the safety keys to purchasing food ingredients
    Mr LAU Kwong-choi, Director and Purchasing Manager of Banyan Group, explains the safety keys to purchasing food ingredients

    Mr Eric LIU, Factory Manager of Ocean Empire Food Shop, shares his experience in the implementation of the food safety management system
    Mr Eric LIU, Factory Manager of Ocean Empire Food Shop, shares his experience in the implementation of the food safety management system

    Mr CHEUNG Sek-ming, Chief Operating Officer of Satay King, shares his experience in obtaining ISO22000 certification
    Mr CHEUNG Sek-ming, Chief Operating Officer of Satay King, shares his experience in obtaining ISO22000 certification

     

    Participants listen attentively to the speaker
    Participants listen attentively to the speaker

    Mr WONG Ka-wo Simon, J.P., Chairman of the Hong Kong Food Council, and Mr WOO Lun, Vice Chairman of the Association of Restaurant Managers, host the focus discussion session
    Mr WONG Ka-wo Simon, J.P., Chairman of the Hong Kong Food Council, and Mr WOO Lun, Vice Chairman of the Association of Restaurant Managers, host the focus discussion session

     

    The speakers answer in detail questions raised by the participants
    The speakers answer in detail questions raised by the participants

    Through the Charter, the CFS hopes to promote the “Five Keys to Food Safety” among the food premises to enhance food safety. This year, the Charter has in place a recognition scheme for food trade associations and licensed food premises that sign up to the Charter for three consecutive years. Signatories can be identified by means of the certificate and sticker of the Charter displayed on the premises.

    A total of 21 food trade associations and over 2 000 licensed restaurants, food establishments, supermarkets and convenience stores signed up to the Charter this year. Information on the signatories is available at both the CFS web site (www.cfs.gov.hk) and the roving exhibitions held in various districts.

     

    Regional Symposium “From Food Incidents to Crisis Management”

    Since its establishment on 2 May 2006 , the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) has adopted a food safety risk analysis framework promulgated by international food safety authorities. With the challenges from globalisation of food supply, the CFS has been working over the past five years to enhance surveillance of both local and imported food, respond proactively to food incidents, and implement a number of initiatives to improve its work in various areas of food safety control. In October 2010, the CFS was designated the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre (WHOCC) for Risk Analysis of Chemicals in Food.

    To commemorate this landmark development and the fifth anniversary of the establishment, the CFS hosted a Regional Symposium featuring the theme "From Food Incidents to Crisis Management" at Hotel Nikko Hongkong, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon on 1 and 2 June 2011 . The objectives of the Symposium are to provide a platform for experience sharing, updating on food safety issues, fostering partnership and collaboration, and providing an opportunity for communicating with the trade.

    The officiating guests included Dr York CHOW, Secretary for Food and Health, and Ms Jenny BISHOP, Technical Officer in Food Safety of the World Health Organization Western Pacific Regional Office. They joined Mr Clement LEUNG, J.P., Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene and Dr Constance CHAN, Controller of the CFS, in launching the light-up ceremony, formally kicking off the Regional Symposium. Ms Jenny BISHOP, on behalf of the World Health Organization, congratulated the CFS on the fifth anniversary of its establishment and on its designation as the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Risk Analysis of Chemicals in Food. She also talked at the Symposium about how the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) works.

    Secretary York CHOW delivers a speech at the opening ceremony
    Secretary York CHOW delivers a speech at the opening ceremony

    (From left) Mr Clement LEUNG, Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene; Dr York CHOW, Secretary for Food and Health; Ms Jenny BISHOP, representative of the World Health Organization and Dr Constance CHAN, Controller of the Centre for Food Safety launch the light-up ceremony to formally kick off the Regional Symposium
    (From left) Mr Clement LEUNG, Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene; Dr York CHOW, Secretary for Food and Health; Ms Jenny BISHOP, representative of the World Health Organization and Dr Constance CHAN, Controller of the Centre for Food Safety launch the light-up ceremony to formally kick off the Regional Symposium

    Dr York CHOW presents a souvenir to Ms Jenny BISHOP, representative of the World Health Organization
    Dr York CHOW presents a souvenir to Ms Jenny BISHOP, representative of the World Health Organization

    The Symposium drew food safety experts from overseas, the Mainland and the local community to deliver keynote speeches to share their experience and expertise. Guest speakers included Professor CHEN Junshi, Professor of National Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety, Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and Chair of Codex Committee on Food Additives; Professor LIU Xiumei, Professor of National Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety, Chinese Centre for Disease Control; Dr Dieter ARNOLD, International Consultant on Food Safety Systems and former Chairman of Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives; Dr CHUA Sin-bin, Principal Consultant of Agrifood Technologies Pte Ltd of Singapore and Ms Noriko ISEKI, Senior Technical Officer, Food Safety Department of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan.

    Group photo of guests
    Group photo of guests

    The Symposium, composed of plenary and parallel sessions, aimed to explore various topics of food incidents and crisis management from different aspects. The topics included Dealing with Food Emergencies, Chemical Food Incidents and Risk Communication, A Risk-based Approach to Food Incidents, Preparing for Future Challenges, etc. In view of an emergency happened in Japan before the Symposium, a Japanese speaker was invited timely to give a presentation on Food Safety Responses to Fukishima Nuclear Plant Incident in Japan. In this one and a half day Symposium, participants actively took part in different sessions to exchange views and share experience, fulfilling the objective of enhanced communication among the interested parties.

    The Symposium was a success which attracted more than four hundred participants, including Government representatives, representatives from competent authorities on the Mainland and Macau , food trade members, physicians, academics and students. Participants showed favourable feedback and established close contact to make continuous concerted efforts in promoting food safety to safeguard public health.

    Active participation among different sectors
    Active participation among different sectors

     

    Upcoming Activities

    Roving Exhibitions on Food Safety

    The CFS regularly holds exhibitions at various public housing estates and major shopping centres. Exhibition panels on different topics such as food safety and nutrition labelling are displayed and educational videos are shown to enhance public knowledge of food safety. There are also games at the venues. Participants of the games will receive a souvenir. For details of the roving exhibitions, please visit the CFS web site (www.cfs.gov.hk) or contact the Communication Resource Unit on 2381 6096.

    The CFS disseminates information on food safety to the public through roving exhibitions
    The CFS disseminates information on food safety to the public through roving exhibitions

     

    Food Safety Q&A

    Question:
    A friend of mine says it is safe to eat mouldy food after removing or washing away the mouldy parts. Is it true?
    Answer:
    Food moulds are fungi that grow on food surface. There are many types of fungi, and most of them are visible only under microscope. Some fungi cause allergic reactions or respiratory problems. A few even produce poisonous substances that can make you sick. In fact, fungi have grown substantially on food by the time they are discernible to the naked eye. Even if you cut off or wash the mouldy parts, the mould hyphae that are invisible to the human eye, may have already penetrated the food. So, if food goes mouldy, discard it.
    Food which goes mouldy has been contaminated by fungi and is not suitable for consumption
    Food which goes mouldy has been contaminated by fungi and is not suitable for consumption
     

    Food with moulds discernible to the naked eye should be discarded
    Food with moulds discernible to the naked eye should be discarded

    Facts and Myths

    Are Used Take-away Containers Reusable?

    Daughter:  
    Mom, why do you collect so many take-away containers?
    Mom:  
    Don’t you know that it is trendy to be environmentally friendly? These take-away containers have been cleaned thoroughly for recycling and reuse. Isn’t it good to be so environmentally friendly?
    Daughter:  
    Mom, we should always pay attention to food safety while showing regard to environmental protection. Not all take-away containers are suitable for reuse. Some of them cannot be used for containing hot food, and some cannot be used for storing acidic food or fatty food. Are you sure that you have a full picture of the characteristics of each of these containers? You should be aware that the harmful substances generated by the improper use of these containers may contaminate the food held inside, which will be detrimental to people’s health. For the sake of our health, it is better to dispose of these take-away containers.
    Mom:  

    I see. Although it seems a bit wasteful, I have no choice but to discard them all for the sake of our health!

     

    Brain Gym

    How much do you know about food additives? Let’s draw lines to match the following food additives with their corresponding uses!

    Preservative
     
    To add colour to food
    Sweetener
     
    To extend the shelf-life of food
    Colour
     
    To adjust the pH of food
    Acidity regulator
     
    To mix oil with water in food
    Emulsifier
     
    To impart sweetness to food

    NA

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    Last Revision Date : 10-11-2011