The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has conducted microbiological and chemical testing on some 55,000 food samples in 2001. The trend was very satisfactory as the overall failure rate has dropped continuously three consecutive years from 0.8 per cent in 1999 and 0.7 per cent in 2000 to 0.5 per cent this year.
Amongst some 19,000 food samples collected for microbiological examinations in 2001, pathogens were found in 53 samples, representing a failure rate of 0.3 per cent compared with 0.4 per cent and 0.3 per cent for 1999 and 2000 respectively.
The most commonly identified pathogen-food combination was Norwalk-like virus in raw oysters which has become a worrying newcomer in the list of incriminated pathogens. The other pair which stood out was Salmonella organisms in siu-mei and lo-mei. Norwalk-like virus, anticipated to be one of the major food contaminants in the coming decade, has been receiving increasing international attention. In anticipation, the Department has already included Norwalk-like virus into its food surveillance programme.
As regards chemical tests, some 36,000 food samples were analysed in the past six months and 211 failures were detected, equivalent to a failure rate of 0.6 per cent. The failure rate has decreased when compared with the failure rates recorded in the corresponding period in 1999 (1 per cent) and 2000 (0.9 per cent).