The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (April 28) released the findings of its food safety report for last month. The results of about 13 700 food samples tested were found to be satisfactory except for nine unsatisfactory samples which were announced earlier. The overall satisfactory rate was 99.9 per cent.
A CFS spokesman said about 1 500 food samples were collected for microbiological tests, some 3 900 samples were taken for chemical tests and the remaining 8 300 (including about 7 700 taken from food imported from Japan) were collected to test radiation levels.
The microbiological tests covered pathogens and hygienic indicators, while the chemical tests aimed at detecting pesticides, preservatives, metallic contaminants, colouring matters, veterinary drug residues and others.
The samples comprised about 4 500 samples of vegetables and fruit and their products; 700 samples of meat and poultry and their products; 1 600 samples of aquatic and related products; 900 samples of milk, milk products and frozen confections; 800 samples of cereals, grains and their products; and 5 200 samples of other food commodities (including beverages, bakery products and snacks).
The nine unsatisfactory samples comprised four vegetable samples detected with pesticide residues exceeding the legal limits; two imported chilled fish samples detected with mercury exceeding the legal limit; two bottled sauce samples found to contain permitted preservative not declared; and a sample of tinned infant formula detected with the iodine content below the minimum level of the legal requirement.
The CFS has taken follow-up action on the unsatisfactory samples including informing the vendors concerned of the test results, instructing them to stop selling the affected food items and tracing the sources of the food items in question.
Since the Pesticide Residues in Food Regulation (Cap 132CM) came into effect on August 1, 2014, as of March 31 this year, the CFS had taken over 100 900 food samples at import, wholesale and retail levels for testing for pesticide residues. The overall unsatisfactory rate is less than 0.2 per cent.
The spokesman added that excessive pesticide residues in food may arise from the trade not observing Good Agricultural Practice, e.g. using excessive pesticides and/or not allowing sufficient time for pesticides to decompose before harvesting. The maximum residue limit (MRL) of pesticide residues in food is not a safety indicator. It is the maximum concentration of pesticide residues to be permitted in a food commodity under Good Agricultural Practice when applying pesticides. In this connection, consumption of food with pesticide residues higher than the MRL will not necessarily lead to any adverse health effects.
Mercury may affect the nervous system, particularly the developing brain. At high levels, mercury can affect foetal brain development, and affect vision, hearing, muscle co-ordination and memory in adults. Furthermore, as some international organisations such as the World Health Organization have pointed out, consuming predatory fish species is the main source of mercury intake for human beings. The report of the CFS' Total Diet Study has also pointed out that large fish or predatory fish species may contain high mercury levels (for example, tuna, alfonsino, shark, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy and king mackerel). Hence, groups particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of mercury, such as pregnant women, women planning pregnancy and young children, should opt for fish that are smaller in size for consumption and avoid consumption of the above-mentioned types of fish which may contain high mercury levels to minimise the health risk posed to the foetus, infants and young children by excessive exposure to metal contaminants in food.
The spokesman reminded the food trade to ensure that food is fit for human consumption and meets legal requirements. Consumers should patronise reliable shops when buying food and maintain a balanced diet to minimise food risks.
Ends/Friday, April 28, 2017