"The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (May 14) announced the results of a recently completed seasonal food surveillance project on rice dumplings. Among the 104 samples collected, one sample was found to contain a non-permitted preservative, boric acid. The overall satisfactory rate was 99 per cent.
"The CFS collected samples of rice dumplings from different food premises such as restaurants, food factories and other retail outlets for chemical, microbiological and nutrition content analyses. The chemical analyses included tests for colouring matters (such as Sudan dyes and red 2G), preservatives (such as boric acid, salicylic acid and benzoic acid), metallic contamination (such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and copper) and pesticides (such as methamidophos and DDT). The microbiological analyses covered pathogenic bacteria (such as Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus). The nutrition content analyses included fat, sugar, sodium and more," a spokesman for the CFS said.
"According to test results, the level of boric acid contained in the unsatisfactory glutinous rice dumpling sample was 410 parts per million," he added.
Under the Preservatives in Food Regulation (subsidiary legislation of Cap 132), boric acid is not a permitted preservative. The sale of food containing boric acid as a preservative is an offence which carries a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine and six months' imprisonment.
"Regarding the unsatisfactory sample, the CFS is taking follow-up actions including instructing the vendor concerned to stop the sale of the incriminated food item, source tracing and considering taking prosecution actions if there is sufficient evidence," the spokesman said.
Rice dumplings are a popular festive food for the Tuen Ng Festival. The aim of the project is to provide information on the safe consumption of rice dumplings to consumers and the trade in a timely manner. The spokesman reminded members of the public to observe the "Five Keys to Food Safety" in purchasing, storing, preparing and cooking rice dumplings to reduce the risk of contracting food-borne diseases. The keys are:
* Buy rice dumplings from reliable retail outlets.
* Pay attention to the hygiene conditions of the premises where rice dumplings are sold and the storage temperature to ensure good quality.
* Before eating, wash hands thoroughly with liquid soap and running water and dry them with a dry towel or paper towel.
Separate raw and cooked food
* Cooked rice dumplings that are not consumed immediately should be kept in a covered container and put in the upper compartment of the refrigerator. Raw food should be kept in the lower compartment to prevent cross-contamination.
* Reheat rice dumplings thoroughly until the core temperature reaches 75 degrees Celsius or above before consumption.
* Opened rice dumplings should be discarded if they have been kept in room temperature for over two hours.
* Do not reheat leftover rice dumplings more than once.
* Rice dumplings should be stored at 4 degrees Celsius or below, or stored properly according to the instructions on the package.
"Besides food safety, healthy eating is also very important. Rice dumplings in general have relatively high energy, high fat and high salt content. Sharing and controlling the portions of rice dumplings is a recommended way to enjoy healthy eating during these festive days. Furthermore, the public is advised to reduce use of condiments like sugar or soya sauce when eating rice dumplings," the spokesman said.
He also reminded food manufacturers to purchase food ingredients from reliable suppliers, adhere to Good Manufacturing Practice for preparation of food products and comply with legal requirements when using food additives.
More food safety tips can be found on the CFS website (www.cfs.gov.hk).
Ends/Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Issued at HKT 18:10