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CFS announces food safety report for December and summary for 2013

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) today (January 30) released the findings of its food safety report for last month. Other than three fresh meat, one candied lotus seed sample, and one rice samples which were found unsatisfactory and announced earlier, only three samples of frozen aquatic products failed in chemical analyses out of the 8 800 food samples tested. The overall satisfactory rate was 99.9 per cent.

A CFS spokesman said about 2 300 food samples had been taken for chemical tests. Some 800 samples were collected for microbiological tests and the remaining 5 700 (including about
5 100 samples taken from food imported from Japan) were collected for testing of radiation levels.

The microbiological tests covered pathogens and hygienic indicators while the chemical tests aimed at detecting pesticides, preservatives, metallic contamination, colouring matters, veterinary drug residues, plasticisers and others.

The samples included vegetables and fruits and their products; meat and poultry and their products; aquatic and related products; milk, milk products and frozen confections; and cereals, grains and their products.

Vegetables, fruits and their products
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The CFS took about 2 300 samples of fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, preserved vegetables and pickled fruits, dried vegetables and ready-to-eat vegetables for analyses. Results were all satisfactory.

Meat, poultry and their products
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The CFS completed the testing of about 500 samples, including fresh, chilled and frozen pork, beef and poultry, ready-to-eat dishes of meat and poultry served at food establishments, and meat- and poultry-made products such as Chinese preserved meat, sausages and ham. Except for the three fresh samples found containing sulphur dioxide and announced earlier, all samples were satisfactory.

Aquatic and related products
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The CFS took some 1 300 samples of fish, shellfish, shrimp, prawn, crab and squid and their products for analyses.

Two samples of frozen fish fillet were detected with a metallic contaminant, mercury, at a level between 1.1 and 1.2 parts per million (ppm), exceeding the legal limit of 0.5 ppm.

"Based on the level of mercury detected in the samples, it is unlikely to pose any adverse health effect upon normal consumption. Nevertheless, adverse impact on the nervous system cannot be ruled out upon long-term consumption," the spokesman said.

Another sample of frozen skin on grouper fillet was found containing residues of a veterinary drug, chloramphenicol, which is not permitted in food, at a level of 0.9 parts per billion (ppb). "Based on the level of chloramphenicol detected, adverse health is unlikely upon normal consumption," the spokesman said.

Results of other tests (e.g. pesticides, preservatives, and colouring matters) were satisfactory.

Milk, milk products and frozen confections
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About 500 samples of ice-cream, cheese, milk and milk products collected for analyses were satisfactory.

Cereals, grains and their products
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The CFS took about 500 samples of rice, noodles, flour, bread and breakfast cereals for analyses. Other than the earlier announced rice sample found with cadmium, all samples passed the tests.

Other food commodities
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The CFS took about 3 700 food samples consisting of mixed dishes, dim sum, beverages, sushi, sashimi, sugar, sweets, condiments, sauces, snacks, eggs and egg products for tests. All test results were found to be satisfactory except for the candied lotus seed sample found with sulphur dioxide and announced earlier.

Testing of radiation level after Fukushima incident
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The CFS has been collecting over 50 000 food samples imported from Japan each year since the Fukushima incident in 2011 for testing of radiation levels. For aquatic and related products originating from Japan, the centre tested around 1000 samples last month and all were satisfactory. Results of surveillance on food imported from Japan are uploaded to the CFS' website daily.


Conclusion
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The CFS has taken follow-up actions on the unsatisfactory samples. They included tracing the sources of the food items, marking and sealing the affected food for disposal later and taking prosecution action against the importer concerned. If the importer concerned imports the same kind of product, the CFS will also hold and test it. Concerning a frozen fish fillet sample detected with prohibited substance, the CFS has banned further import of the same food from the same source.

Since some fish samples were found containing excessive mercury, the spokesman recommended appropriate consumption of a variety of fish. As pregnant women, women planning pregnancy and young children are more susceptible to the effects of mercury, they should avoid large predatory fish when choosing fish dishes.

The spokesman also reminded retailers to source food from reliable suppliers and maintain a good recording system in accordance with the Food Safety Ordinance to allow source tracing if needed.

Consumers should patronise reliable shops when buying food and maintain a balanced diet to minimise food risk.

Summary of food surveillance programme for 2013
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Concluding the food surveillance programme for 2013, the spokesman said that apart from routine food surveillance, the CFS had conducted a number of targeted as well as seasonal and popular food surveillance projects.

"Apart from samples of imported Japanese food taken for testing of radiation level in response to the Fukushima nuclear power plant incident in Japan, about 64 600 samples were tested by the CFS last year. The overall satisfactory rate was 99.9 per cent, which was comparable to the results of 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 actions to safeguard public health," he said.

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 for breaches of regulatory requirement that occurred more frequently, so as to ensure food safety in Hong Kong.

Ends/Thursday, January 30, 2014
Issued at HKT 19:10

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Last revision date: 30-01-2014