2010 4th Issue
Feature Article (Handle Hotpot Ingredients with Care for Safe Consumption)
With Christmas and New Year around the corner, hotpot cuisine becomes a popular choice of meal gathering. While we are savouring the food, we should pay attention to food safety for "illness finds its way in by the mouth".
Characteristics of Hotpot Cuisine:
Hotpot cuisine is often served in a shared pot. People tend to put in a combination of different food items into the pot before the soup is brought to a boil. However, different types of food require different cooking times. While most of us would just count on our experience to judge if the food is thoroughly cooked, the most reliable way to ensure that the food is done is to wait for the soup to boil, and then put in the food by types to cook thoroughly (especially pig livers) before eating.
Also, we should avoid dipping cooked food in a sauce mixed with raw eggs to prevent Salmonella food poisoning.
Always handle ingredients with care to ensure food safety and hygiene. Common hotpot ingredients include:
Shellfish, such as oysters and scallops – scrub and wash the shells. Have them disemboweled, wrapped in cling film and stored in the refrigerator at a temperature between 0 oC and 4 oC.
Fish, meat and meat balls – cut the fish and meat into thin slices after washing. Cut meat balls to the centre to allow faster cooking. Frozen food should first be thawed in the refrigerator at a temperature between 0 oC and 4 oC or by microwave oven.
Vegetables – should be rinsed under running water for several times and then soaked in clean water for about an hour . Rinse again before storing in the refrigerator at a temperature between 0 oC and 4 oC.
Some more points to note:
- Avoid buying or consuming contaminated food materials.
- Make sure that the refrigerators used for food storage function properly. Keep cooked food above the raw ones.
- To prevent cross-contamination, always keep the utensils clean. Thoroughly clean and sanitise bowls and dishes that have been used for holding raw food materials before reuse. Use two separate sets of wares and utensils to handle raw and cooked food separately. Moreover, keep raw and cooked food separately.
- When cooking, make sure that the food is thoroughly cooked. Generally, core temperature of meat should be at 75 oC or above.
- Observe good personal hygiene: wash hands thoroughly with clean water and soap before and after handling food, before meals and after going to the toilet.
Know More about Common Food Poisoning Bacteria
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a halophilic vibrio often found in the marine environment and seafood. It is highly reproductive. Consumption of seafood (in particular shellfish) that has not been thoroughly cooked may cause bacterial infection. One may develop symptoms including diarrhoea, vomiting, mild fever and abdominal pain, etc. usually within one to two days of being infected. They can recover after replenishing with water and electrolyte together with adequate rest. However, young children, the elderly or persons suffering from gastric diseases will easily get dehydrated upon infection. In this case, antibiotics treatment may be required.
Salmonella species is a group of bacteria that can be found in the intestine of humans as well as wild and domestic animals (including poultry, pigs and pets like dogs, cats and reptiles). A number of Salmonella species can cause food poisoning in humans. The symptoms include nausea, fever, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting, which are more severe in infants and the elderly. The incubation period is from 6 to 72 hours, usually about 12 to 36 hours. Food may be contaminated by salmonellae in animal faeces and cross-contamination may occur during further processing and preparation. Salmonellae may survive in the environment and equipment of food-processing facilities. Eating raw or inadequately cooked eggs can easily cause infection.
The gastro-intestinal illness caused by noroviruses is usually mild and self-limiting. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. According to literature, norovirus is a common pathogen of viral gastro-intestinal disease and noroviral gastro-intestinal disease is more common in winter. The only known host for norovirus is infected human. It can be spread by faecal-oral route via contaminated food and water. Other major modes of transmission include person-to-person spread, contact with contaminated object and aerosol spread. As norovirus is commonly found in sewage-contaminated water, the shellfish harvested from polluted water or vegetables irrigated with polluted water are very likely to be contaminated. Ice, salad, raw vegetables and shellfish have been identified as the media of food poisoning outbreaks caused by norovirus. Therefore, consumption of these contaminated foods poses a high risk of Norovirus infection. The key to the prevention of norovirus infection is the strict observance of food, personal and environmental hygiene.
Clonorchis sinensis is a parasite that can live on or in a host to derive benefit from or at the expense of its host. Infection of Clonorchis sinensis is endemic in Mainland China, Taiwan, Korea and some other countries and areas in Southeast Asia. People are infected by consuming raw or undercooked freshwater fish containing the encysted form of the parasite (metacercariae). Therefore, freshwater fish must be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
Light infections by the fluke cause mild or no symptoms, while large numbers can cause intense infection for long duration and result in loss of appetite, diarrhoea, and fever. The fluke can also cause obstruction of the bile duct and liver cirrhosis. In severe cases, the infection can result in chronic jaundice and eventually the higher occurrence of cholangiocarcinoma (cancer arising from bile duct cells).
For more information, please visit the following website: http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/multimedia/multimedia_pub/multimedia_pub_fsf_52_01.html
- Turn and Look for Healthier Food Choices
Nutrition Labelling Series – Nutrient Content Claims
Nutrient content claims, such as "low fat", "high fibre", are the most common nutrition claims found in prepackaged foods nowadays. Nutrient content claims must meet the statutory requirement on nutrient content and 100 g is usually adopted as a benchmark for most foods. When adopting a "low" or "high" claim, the amount of the nutrient concerned must not be over or below the stipulated level. For example, for a "low fat" claim, total fat should not be more than 3 g per 100 g of solid food; for a "high fibre" claim, the dietary fibre should not be less than 6 g per 100 g of solid food.
A "free" or "no" nutrition claim, such as "no sugars", "sodium free" (i.e. "salt free"), is also considered as a type of "nutrient content claim". The use of such claim does not imply that the prepackaged food is free of a particular nutrient. It only means that the food contains an insignificant amount of a nutrient, nearly 0 g per 100 g of food. Take a "no sugars" claim as an example. The food should not c ontain more than 0.5 g of sugars per 100 g of food.
Despite the use of the same "nutrient content claim" in different prepackaged foods, it does not mean the levels of the nutrient concerned are the same. For example, the level of total fat of two prepackaged foods carrying the same "low fat" claim may differ because the law stipulates that a "low fat" claim can be used if total fat is not more than 3 g per 100 g of solid food. In addition, some prepackaged foods which satisfy the statutory conditions may not be labelled as "low fat". Hence, the nutrition claim can only serve as a quick reference and consumers should read carefully the information on nutrition labels in making a healthy food choice.
Please visit www.nutritionlabel.gov.hk or refer to the leaflet (http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/programme/programme_nifl/files/UNDERSTAND_E.pdf) to learn more about nutrition claims.
- Food Safety Bill
To strengthen control on food safety and safeguard public health, the Food Safety Bill was introduced to the Legislative Council on 2 June 2010 . The Bill provides for food safety regulatory measures including, among others, a food traceability mechanism to ensure that the Government can, in case of food incidents, trace the source of problem food more effectively and act promptly. The food traceability mechanism is composed of two elements:
- a registration scheme for food importers and food distributors; and
- a requirement for food traders to maintain proper transaction records to enhance food traceability.
For more information on the Food Safety Bill, please visit the website of the Centre for Food Safety: http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/food_leg/food_leg.html.
News on New Dishes
|How to Prepare||Secrets|
||First of all, buy good quality soft shell crabs and then wash them thoroughly.||Inspection is a very important step. Food products should be inspected as they are received. Practise the first-in-first-out principle for storage to ensure good food quality.|
||Dry soft shell crabs with paper towels, then coat with the batter evenly and slip into hot oil. Fry to golden brown and remove to drain off excess oil.||When frying the crabs in hot oil, the chef can determine if the crabs are done based on the colour and frying time. This will ensure the food is fully cooked.|
||Soak Vietnamese rice paper in water until it becomes soft and wipe off excess water.||Wet the rice paper for a few seconds only. Do not soak it in water for too long.|
||Lay out a piece of rice paper and put tender spinach leaves, young ginger slices and mango pieces in the centre. Put the fried soft shell crabs on the other side of the rice paper and roll.||Roll quickly but carefully so as not to break the rice paper.|
||Use a knife to cut the roll in half and put the two halves on a plate to serve with dipping sauce.||Use separate utensils for raw food and cooked food to avoid cross contamination.|
Tips from Chef Suen:
- Undoubtedly we all agree that it requires great skills to make an aromatic and crispy deep-fried batter. According to Chef Suen, the secret of making a very crispy batter is to add an appropriate amount of beer in the batter so that it will give soft shell crabs a crispy texture and the crispiness can last longer.
- It is vital to use quality ingredients. Chef Suen indicated that their Group will adopt a central procurement strategy when sourcing food ingredients from reliable and reputable suppliers all over the world. In doing so, the ingredients' places of origin can be traced and staff can be assigned to conduct inspections regularly. Moreover, suppliers can be required to provide certification to ensure food hygiene standards are fully met.
- Kitchen staff are required to have good hygiene practices at work. The "Hygiene Treasure Box" on t he intranet of the Group as well as at its branches provides relevant information and the latest hygiene knowledge to enable the staff to refresh their skills and food hygiene knowledge. All new recruits have to attend a hygiene training course organised by the company.
- Branch managers will provide sufficient cleaning items (such as antiseptic liquid soap, paper towels, etc.) for the staff. Kitchen staff will clean the kitchen thoroughly and empty refuse bins each night. Arrangements will be made for the cleaning company to carry out monthly disinfection and cleansing thoroughly to maintain hygiene standards.
- Mangoes and vegetables should be stored at 4 °C in a refrigerator whereas soft shell crabs should be stored at -18°C in a freezer. The temperature inside the refrigerator and freezer will be checked each day to ensure that they are functioning properly.
Lastly, Chef Suen remarked that as a member of the catering trade in Hong Kong, "Simply Thai" has always placed strong emphasis on food quality and the hygiene conditions at its branches so that the customers can consume food with peace of mind. "Simply Thai" has become a Signatory of the Food Safety Charter developed by the Centre for Food Safety since 2008 to join hands with the Government to promote food safety.
What is the Food Safety Charter?
The Food Safety Charter is an endeavour jointly promoted by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) and the food trade. Since its launching, the Food Safety Charter has been providing facilitation for the food trade to incorporate appropriate food safety measures into their day-to-day operations in providing innovative and client-oriented quality services to Hong Kong citizens and tourists from all over the world. By supporting the Food Safety Charter, food establishments take the lead to promote safe eating, thereby building a good reputation and a healthy image, which is a meaningful way for them to contribute to Hong Kong's catering business. For information on the activities of the Food Safety Charter, please visit the following website of the CFS:
Corner of Food Safety Plan
Critical Control Point for Preparing Wine Chicken
During festivals, relatives and friends usually get together to enjoy various delicacies. Chicken is one of the indispensable food items. Wine chicken, quite a popular Chinese cold dish, is a mouth-watering delicacy as its meat is fresh and tender with a light taste of liquor. Being a cold dish, it will, however, be contaminated by bacteria (e.g. Salmonella spp. and Staphylococcus aureus) if not thoroughly cooked or properly stored after cooking. Therefore, you are advised to make reference to the following production guidelines to ensure food safety in preparing the dish.
Cold Knowledge of Cooking Wines
Rice wine, Shaoxing wine and Chinese Rose wine are often used in cooking Chinese dishes. Rice wine, a white wine mainly made from rice, can remove the fishy smell of food and is often used in cooking seafood. Shaoxing wine, a yellow wine mainly made from sticky rice, is often used in cooking wine chicken. Shaoxing wine is also called Huadiao (meaning embossed patterns). In ancient times, Shaoxing wine was given as a gift to families with new born babies in a jar that was normally embossed with colourful patterns. Chinese Rose wine, a Sorghum-based white spirit made from sorghum and roses, is suitable for preparing preserved meat.
|Spring onion||2 stalks (in sections)|
|Shaoxing wine||250 ml|
- Rinse the chicken.
- Put the ginger, spring onion, salt and chicken into boiling water. When water reboils, switch the heat to low fire and stew for about 20 minutes.
- Cool and chop the cooked chicken. Add Shaoxing wine. Cover the chicken properly and put it in the fridge for 4 hours.
Briefing of Activities
- Consumer Liaison Group
The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) believes that tripartite collaboration among the Government, the food trade and consumers is essential in ensuring foods sold in Hong Kong are wholesome and safe for human consumption. For better communication with consumers, the CFS established a Consumer Liaison Group (CLG) in August 2006 to invite the public to become CLG members and seek views from them on different food safety issues.
Various activities were organised by the CFS for CLG members in 2010, four of which were focus group meetings on " Publicity and Education on Nutrition Labelling", "Effectiveness of Food Safety Message Dissemination through Food Safety Bulletin", "Release of Test Results on Food" and so on. CLG members will be updated on food safety information and receive food alerts to keep abreast of food safety issues and CFS's work. Members who have served their two-year tenure will be awarded a certificate in recognition of their contributions in food safety.
Entering 2011, the CFS will continue its effort in close collaboration with the CLG in enhancing the exchange of information and views on food safety, so as to gauge the public's knowledge and demands regarding food safety. As such, legislation drafting, policy formulation and publicity campaigns can be more responsive to the needs of the public.
To know more about the CLG, please visit this website:
- Roving Exhibitions on Food Safety
The CFS holds exhibitions in major shopping centres of public and private housing estates across the territory every year. Panels covering different topics such as food safety and nutrition and educational videos are shown to enhance public knowledge on how to make safe and suitable food choices to suit one's needs. Games are also available at these exhibitions to give out souvenirs to participants. New arrangements of the exhibitions will be announced regularly at the following website:
- The 45 th Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo
A booth was set up by the CFS on 23 rd and 24 th December 2010 at the 45 th Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo which took place in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay. The booth publicised nutrition labelling and taught visitors how to make healthier choices of ‘3 low' foods by means of nutrition labels. Many visitors were attracted to the CFS's booth.
Food Safety Q&A
Question: Are steviol glycosides permitted sweeteners in Hong Kong ?
Answer: The Amendment Regulation that adds two types of sweeteners (including steviol glycosides) to the Schedule to the Sweeteners in Food Regulations (Cap 132U) took effect on 1 August 2010 . After the Amendment Regulation took effect, steviol glycosides are permitted to be used in food as sweeteners and should be used in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), ie. the quantity added to food should be limited to the lowest possible level necessary to accomplish the desired effect. Steviol glycosides have been evaluated and determined to be safe by the Joint Food and Agricultural Organisation / World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and are permitted for use in Mainland China, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. The Codex Committee on Food Additives is taking steps for the inclusion of the uses of steviol glycosides in the General Standard on Food Additives (GSFA).
Facts and Myths
Myths: Storing food in the refrigerator can kill the germs in food.
Facts: Freezing is only a way to slow down the growth of germs using low temperature in order to extend the shelf-life of food products. Under low temperature environment, some germs may be killed but some can still survive. However, most of the germs cannot grow at such low temperature. Many frozen food items have to be defrosted before cooking or eating. Defrosting is a way to soften frozen food and resume its original form. Frozen food should be defrosted properly. Otherwise, the germs in food may grow rapidly. Three defrosting methods are recommended, including: (i) defrosting by putting the food in the lower compartment of the refrigerator; (ii) defrosting under running water; and (iii) defrosting by microwave oven.
Please link the germ which commonly causes food poisoning to the most relevant food-borne medium.