The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (May 31) released the findings of its food safety report for last month. The results of about 10 200 food samples tested were found to be satisfactory except for six unsatisfactory samples which were announced earlier. The overall satisfactory rate was 99.9 per cent.
A CFS spokesman said about 1 000 food samples were collected for microbiological tests, some 3 000 samples were taken for chemical tests and the remaining 6 200 (including about 5 800 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 3 000 samples of vegetables and fruit and their products; 600 samples of meat and poultry and their products; 1 400 samples of aquatic and related products; 600 samples of milk, milk products and frozen confections; 800 samples of cereals, grains and their products; and 3 800 samples of other food commodities (including beverages, bakery products and snacks).
The six unsatisfactory samples comprised two vegetable samples detected with pesticide residues exceeding the legal limits; two freshwater grouper samples detected with trace amounts of malachite green; a gan shui rice dumpling sample found to contain boric acid, a preservative not permitted in food; and a smoked salmon sample suspected to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
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 and distribution of the food items in question.
Since the Pesticide Residues in Food Regulation (Cap 132CM) came into effect on August 1, 2014, as of April 30 this year, the CFS had taken over 103 700 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.
Malachite green is a type of industrial dye and has been used for treating infection in fish. Major agricultural economies such as the Mainland, the European Union, Canada and the United States prohibit the use of the chemical in food fish. According to the Harmful Substances in Food Regulations (Cap 132AF), no food sold in Hong Kong is allowed to contain malachite green. Offenders will be prosecuted and will be liable to a fine of $50,000 and to imprisonment for six months upon conviction.
Listeria monocytogenes can be easily destroyed by cooking but can survive and multiply at refrigerator temperatures. Most healthy individuals do not develop symptoms or only have mild symptoms like fever, muscle pain, headache, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea when infected. However, severe complications such as septicemia, meningitis or even death may occur in newborns, the elderly and those with a weaker immune system. Although infected pregnant women may just experience mild symptoms generally, the infection of Listeria monocytogenes may cause miscarriage, infant death, preterm birth, or severe infection in newborns.
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/Wednesday, May 31, 2017