The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (September 29) released the findings of its food safety report for last month. The results of about 13 600 food samples were found to be satisfactory except for 16 unsatisfactory samples. The overall satisfactory rate was 99.9 per cent.
A CFS spokesman said about 1 400 food samples were collected for microbiological tests, some 4 000 samples were taken for chemical tests and the remaining 8 200 (including about 7 800 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 3 900 samples of vegetables and fruit and their products; 600 samples of meat and poultry and their products; 1 600 samples of aquatic and related products; 800 samples of milk, milk products and frozen confections; 1 000 samples of cereals, grains and their products; and 5 700 samples of other food commodities (including beverages, bakery products and snacks).
The 16 unsatisfactory samples comprised eight samples of poultry eggs and egg products detected with a pesticide, fipronil, exceeding the legal limit; two vegetable and fruit samples detected with pesticide residues exceeding the legal limit; two frozen confection samples found to contain coliform bacteria exceeding the legal limit; a shallot sample detected with chromium exceeding the legal limit; a fried swordfish floss sample detected with excessive mercury; a silver pin noodle sample detected with the preservative ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate; and a sample of a bottled fruit juice drink found contaminated with patulin.
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 August 31 this year, the CFS had taken over 117 100 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 limits (MRLs) of pesticide residues in food set in the Regulation are not safety indicators. They are the maximum concentrations 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 MRLs will not necessarily lead to any adverse health effects.
Patulin mostly occurs in the apple and its products. Generally speaking, apple juice with a low level of patulin will not cause acute intoxification. However, studies have shown that gastrointestinal hyperaemia, distension, haemorrhage and ulceration could result if animals are exposed to high levels of patulin over a short period of time.
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, September 29, 2017