Import Surveillance and Control
3.1 What is the measurement for radioactive substances in foodstuffs?
The level of radionuclides in foodstuffs is presented as activity per unit volume or per unit mass. The activity is the number of disintegrations per unit time taking place in a radioactive material. The unit of measurement is Becquerel (Bq) in which one Becquerel equal to one radioactive disintegration per second.
For example, the guideline level established by Codex Alimentarius Commission for caesium-137 in infant foods is 1000 Bq/kg.*
*For multiple radionuclides, the activity concentrations of each radionuclide within the same group should be added together.
3.2 What is the testing procedure?
Consignments will be initially screened by the CFS staff using Hand-held survey meters .Sample will then be taken for screening using the Contamination Monitoring System (CMS). Sample with reading beyond the limits will be sent to Government Laboratory (GL) for further quantitative analysis of Iodine-131, Caesium -134 and Caesium -137. Besides, additional samples will also be sent to GL for test.
3.3 What are the types of food products currently imported into Hong Kong which come from areas in Japan that may be exposed to radiation and the quantities imported?
Currently, the food from Japan only constitutes a small part of our total imports. Imported fresh food from Japan consisted mainly of meat, aquatic products, milk, frozen confections, vegetables and fruit. The total import of the above foodstuffs amounted to 380 tonnes in 2010, with market shares ranging from below 1% (e.g. vegetables and fruits) to 5% (e.g. meat, milk and frozen confections). Import of poultry and poultry eggs from Japan has been suspended since the outbreak of avian influenza last year.
3.4 What are the criteria adopted at present in testing the level of radioactive contamination in Japanese food products, and the measures to be adopted when some food products are found to have a level of radioactive contamination exceeding the normal standard?
CFS currently adopts the standards laid down by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which are international standards, in the Guidelines Levels for Radionuclides in Food following Accidental Nuclear Contamination in testing the radiation levels of food. Relevant radionuclides include iodine-131 (100 Bq/kg), caesium-134 and caesium-137 (1,000 Bq/kg), etc, which are most closely associated with health risks.
If a consignment of food is tested to have exceeded the contamination standard, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will immediately detain that consignment and arrange for disposal. According to Codex, when radionuclide levels in food do not exceed the corresponding guideline levels, the food should be considered as safe for human consumption.