The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has conducted analysis including microbiological and chemical testing on over 62 000 food samples in 2005 and the results show that food safety remained at a very high standard. The overall failure rate for both microbiological and chemical testing was 0.3%, comparable to that in 2003 and 2004.
While microbiological tests covered pathogenic bacteria and viruses, chemical tests were conducted to detect natural toxins, food additives and contaminants.
Regarding microbiological tests, about 21 000 food samples were analysed with unacceptable levels of pathogens found in 26 samples. This amounts to a failure rate of 0.1%, comparable to that in 2003 and 2004.
The pathogens detected included bacteria such as Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes and Norwalk virus. The presence of the pathogens might be mainly due to cross-contamination during the handling and storage of ready-to-eat foods and therefore strict observance of good hygiene practices by food handlers is of paramount importance. Despite the persistence of low failure rate in past years, FEHD has maintained vigilance over the monitoring of food safety in Hong Kong. Coupled with the efforts of manufacturers and consumers' enhanced knowledge in food hygiene, the safety of foods on sale could be further ensured.
As for chemical analyses, about 40 000 food samples were tested in 2005 and 180 were found to be unsatisfactory, representing a failure rate of 0.4%. This low rate was comparable to that in 2003 and 2004. Most of the unsatisfactory samples involved the use of non-permitted or excessive preservatives, including benzoic acid and sorbic acid. Despite the isolated failed samples, the overall compliance of food samples with the use of preservatives remained high. The other unsatisfactory results included the detection of a chemical, malachite green, in samples of fish and fish products and the detection of heavy metals in vegetables. Nevertheless, all the levels detected were unlikely to cause any adverse health effects.