The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (January 13) announced the test results of a recently completed seasonal food surveillance project on Lunar New Year (LNY) food (second phase). The test results of around 160 samples collected were satisfactory, except for a prepackaged candy sample found not in compliance with nutrition label rules which was announced earlier.
"The CFS announced the first-phase test results on LNY food last month. As the LNY is around the corner, the CFS has completed the second phase of the surveillance project. Different types of LNY food, including steamed puddings (e.g. turnip puddings and festive cakes), fried dumplings (e.g. sesame balls and crispy triangles), candied fruits, glutinous rice balls, melon seeds and dried aquatic products, were collected from different retailers (including online retailers). In addition to carrying out chemical and microbiological tests, the CFS also conducted nutrition content analysis of food samples," a spokesman for the CFS said.
Chemical tests targeted preservatives (e.g. sulphur dioxide, benzoic acid and sorbic acid), colouring matters (e.g. Sudan dyes), antioxidants and metallic contaminants (e.g. cadmium, mercury and arsenic). Microbiological tests covered different food poisoning pathogens, such as Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Bacillus cereus and coagulase-positive staphylococci organisms. For nutrition content analyses, contents of energy, carbohydrates, protein, total fat, saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, sodium and sugars of the samples were tested to see if the test results comply with their declared values on the nutrition labels.
The spokesman urged the food trade to comply with the relevant legal requirements on nutrition labelling. According to Section 61 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132), if any person falsely describes a food or misleads as to the nature, substance or quality of the food on a label of the food sold by him, he shall be guilty of an offence and be liable to a maximum fine of $50,000 and six months' imprisonment upon conviction.
Furthermore, the food trade should observe the relevant laws and regulations in the preparation of food, follow Good Manufacturing Practice and use permitted food additives only in an appropriate manner. Retailers should source food from reliable suppliers, and conduct quality checks of incoming materials and end products to ensure that ingredients used are within legal standards. In addition, the food trade should maintain proper records in accordance with the requirements of the Food Safety Ordinance to allow source tracing if needed.
The spokesman also advised consumers to buy LNY food from reliable retailers with good hygiene conditions; make sure the packaging of prepackaged cakes and snacks is intact and the products have not expired; refer to the nutrition labels on the sugar, salt (sodium) and fat contents, etc, for healthy choices; and pay attention to the hygiene conditions of food containers and the personal hygiene of staff when buying loose-packed food (e.g. candied lotus seeds, nuts and melon seeds).
"Consumers should choose food products with natural colours. Bright white pistachios may have been bleached and melon seeds with unnatural gloss may have had mineral oil added. Consumption of these food products can cause gastrointestinal discomfort," the spokesman said.
"Festive cakes that are not for immediate consumption should be kept refrigerated or stored according to the instructions on the package, and should be eaten before they expire. Reheat hot-served food thoroughly before consumption. Discard food with mould or an abnormal smell or taste. Leftovers should not be stored in the refrigerator for longer than three days and should not be reheated more than once. Nuts and melon seeds should not be kept for a long time and mouldy ones should not be eaten," he added.
The CFS spokesman reminded members of the public to maintain a balanced diet and avoid excessive consumption of LNY foods that are high in energy, sugar, salt or fat. The CFS advises members of the public to share seasonal food with their friends and relatives while enjoying the festive season.
Please visit the CFS website (www.cfs.gov.hk) for more food safety tips.
Ends/Friday, January 13, 2017