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Food Safety Bulletin for Consumers 2013 (2nd Issue)

Published by the Centre for Food Safety

Feature Article


Legislative Proposals Relating to Formula Products and Foods Intended for Infants and Young Children under the Age of 36 Months in Hong Kong

""In order to safeguard the health of infants and young children, the Administration has formulated legislative proposals relating to formula products and foods intended for infants and young children under the age of 36 months. These legislative proposals have been drawn up with reference to the principles of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) , taking into account the international practices. The proposals comprise requirements on nutritional composition of infant formula ; and nutrition labelling of infant formula, follow-up formula and other foods for infants and young children. Salient features of the legislative proposals are as follows:

Key aspects of the proposed legislation:

  1. Codex requirement on nutritional composition (i.e. energy and 33 nutrients as specified by Codex) for infant formula before complementary feeding is introduced;
  2. nutrition labelling requirement for infant formula before complementary feeding is introduced, by listing the energy and 33 nutrients which are required to be present in infant formula as specified by Codex;
  3. nutrition labelling requirement for follow-up formula intended for infants and young children under the age of 36 months by listing the energy and 25 nutrients as specified by Codex;
  4. nutrition labelling requirement for foods intended for infants and young children under the age of 36 months by listing the energy and nutrients required for such foods as specified by Codex, as well as labelling the sodium content in these products; and
  5. a suitable grace period for the trade, the length of which will be determined with regard to the trade's and laboratories' readiness for the proposed changes, aspiration of the general public, etc.

As for the regulation of nutrition claims, it is a complex and controversial issue. At present, there is still a lack of international consensus on the regulation of claims. To avoid delay in the task of regulating nutritional composition of infant formula and nutrition labelling of formula products and foods intended for infants and young children under the age of 36 months, the Administration has proposed to tackle the issue of regulating claims at a later stage.

A two-month public consultation exercise was conducted from 20 November 2012 to 21 January 2013 to collect views from the public and stakeholders. Strong support for the legislative proposals was received from respondents. Some urged that the proposals be enacted as soon as possible to protect the health of infants and young children. The Administration will therefore proceed with drafting the legislation for introducing to the Legislative Council.


Readers' Corner

Beware of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning in Summer Times

Ciguatera fish poisoning is caused by the consumption of coral reef fish that contain ciguatoxins. The toxins accumulate up the food chain which starts with the herbivorous fish that feed on toxic marine plankton in the coral reef and accumulate successively in the body of larger carnivorous fish.

Ciguatoxins are a group of heat-stable, fat-soluble compounds. They are produced by marine plankton Gambierdiscus toxicus. The plankton live in the oceans between 32°N and 32°S and ciguatera fish only appeared in these regions of the oceans . The toxins are up to 50 to 100 times more concentrated in the viscera, liver and gonads of affected fish, while the fish remain asymptomatic. As the toxins are heat-stable and cannot be removed by cooking or processing, they can affect the nerve and muscle functions of persons who consume ciguatera fish. Ciguatera fish poisoning is now a common type of marine food poisoning worldwide, due to increased international commerce in seafood.

Initial symptoms of ciguatera fish poisoning can appear 30 minutes after consuming ciguatera fish. The symptoms can be gastrointestinal or neurological. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea and abdominal pain usually last only a few days, followed by neurological symptoms like tingling in the oral region and extremities, itching of the skin, reversal of hot/cold temperature perception, fatigue, muscle and joint pain which last longer. In severe cases, hypotension, bradycardia, respiratory difficulties and arrest may develop but death is uncommon. The symptoms can be aggravated by factors such as previous intoxication of ciguatera fish poisoning or consumption of alcoholic beverages, peanuts or bean products along with coral reef fish.

Advice for Consumers:

  • Consume less coral reef fish and avoid eating their roe, liver, intestines, head and skin.
  • Avoid consumption of peanuts, beans and alcohol when consuming coral reef fish.
  • Buy coral reef fish from reputable seafood retailers.
  • Seek immediate medical advice as soon as symptoms of ciguatera fish poisoning appear.


Choose Food Wisely

""Always purchase food from licensed and reliable suppliers with good hygienic condition. Do not buy food from suspicious and unknown sources, such as food products available in bulk stock at an unusually low price.

Be sure to choose fresh food products rather than those with an abnormal colour or odour or damaged products. Do not buy food with damaged, broken, dented or rusty packages because the food inside may have deteriorated or have been contaminated.

Attention should also be paid to the expiry date (especially the "use by" date) of pre-packaged foods. Avoid buying perishable foods that will soon expire. Check their expiry date before use and store them according to the first-in-first-out principle .

When ordering foods meant to be held hot, do not accept those that are not kept at 60 oC or above during their delivery. For foods intended to be received chilled or frozen, chilled foods should be kept at 4 oC or below and frozen foods at -18 oC or below during delivery.

Info Corner

Hong Kong Continues Import Ban on Game Civet Cats

Hong Kong introduced the import ban on game masked palm civets (also known as Himalayan palm civets or gem-faced civets, or commonly referred to as civet cats) after the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003. The import ban on civet cats aims to minimise the risk of zoonotic diseases. In view of the public health threat from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (formerly known as novel coronavirus), the import ban is also extended to bats.


Tips for Getting the Temperature Right

When Cooking Shellfish


News on New Dishes

Seafood Stuffed Hairy Gourds

""Summer has rolled around! In this issue, we are honoured to have invited Chef CHAN Ka-kui, head chef of the Tin Hau Branch of Royal Legend, a signatory of the Food Safety Charter, to demonstrate how to prepare a summer dish featuring the seasonal hairy gourds – Seafood Stuffed Hairy Gourds.

  Preparation Steps Small Tips, Big Wisdom
Receiving Receiving First, purchase frozen shrimps, frozen scallops, frozen coral clams, fresh lobster and other ingredients from approved and reliable sources. Upon receipt of the ingredients, check with meticulous care to ensure their freshness. Frozen seafood should be stored in a refrigerator at -18 oC or below.
Rinsing Rinsing Hairy gourds should be rinsed thoroughly and peeled. Remove surface contaminants such as sand and mud. Peel and set aside.
Defrosting Defrosting Defrost frozen shrimps, scallops and coral clams in a refrigerator at 4 oC or below. Defrosting in a refrigerator at 4 oC or below not only ensures food safety but also keeps the fresh taste of seafood.
Cutting Cutting Cut two hairy gourds into several sections. Scoop out the pulp to give hairy gourd rings. Dice other ingredients: frozen shrimps (3 pcs), frozen scallops (2 pcs) and frozen coral clams (2 pcs). Cutting hairy gourds into ring-shaped sections and other ingredients into dices makes it easier to cook them thoroughly.
Blanching Blanching Blanch diced shrimps, scallops and coral clams in boiling water. Drain them dry when cooked and set aside. Blanching is a method of cooking which can ascertain easily that ingredients are cooked thoroughly and takes less time than stir-frying raw ingredients from scratch.
Cooking Cooking Cook the hairy gourd rings in chicken stock with low heat and set aside. Patience is needed for cooking the hairy gourds. Cook with low heat until the hairy gourds are 60-70% done. Turn off the heat and put on the lid. Poaching the hairy gourds in hot stock ensures they soak up the flavours and stay firm.
Stir-frying Stir-frying
  • Remove fresh lobster meat from shell. Stir-fry the shell until fragrant. Then add pure milk and hot water, and season with salt, sugar and chicken powder to make the soup. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in wok. Stir-fry the ingredients until fragrant and stuff them into the hairy gourd rings.
  • The soup is freshly prepared every day to ensure its colour, aroma and taste.
  • Brisk stir-frying in wok makes ingredients more delicious and ensures that they are cooked thoroughly.
Saucing Saucing Heat up the lobster soup. Add cornflour to thicken the soup and dish up. Garnish the soup with fresh cream and put the hairy gourd rings on the soup. Ready to serve. Attention should be paid to the expiry date and storage temperature of fresh cream.

Tips from Chef CHAN:


  1. Use fresh ingredients. Defrost frozen seafood in a refrigerator at 4 oC or below to keep it in its best shape.
  2. The lobster soup should be freshly prepared every day and used as soon as possible to ensure its delicious taste and bright colour. Besides using suitable amounts of sugar, chicken powder and salt as seasoning, a dash of sesame seeds and parsley can be added to remove the fishy taste of lobster.
  3. Fresh cream should be stored in a refrigerator at 4 oC or below. Pay attention to the expiry date and use up the cream as soon as possible after the packaging is opened.

Food Safety Plan Corner

Seafood Stuffed Hairy Gourds


Hairy gourds, shrimps, scallops, coral clams, lobster shell, pure milk and fresh cream

Salt, sugar, chicken powder and cornflour


  1. After removing lobster meat from shell, stir-fry the shell in a wok heated with oil until fragrant. Then add hot water and pure milk, and season with salt, sugar and chicken powder. Set aside.
  2. Defrost frozen shrimps, scallops and coral clams in a refrigerator at 4 oC or below.
  3. Rinse ingredients with water.
  4. Cut hairy gourds into sections. Scoop out the pulp to give hairy gourd rings. Cook the hairy gourds thoroughly in chicken stock with low heat. Set aside.
  5. Dice shrimps, scallops and coral clams. Then blanch them in boiling water until cooked.
  6. Return the blanched shrimp, scallop and coral clam dices to the wok and stir-fry until fragrant. Stuff them into the hairy gourd rings.
  7. Finally, heat up the lobster soup. Add cornflour to thicken the soup and dish up. Garnish the soup with fresh cream and put the hairy gourd rings on the soup. Ready to serve.

Seafood Stuffed Hairy Gourds

Production Process

Briefing of Activities

Food Hygiene Seminar (Public Series)

Through active participation and tripartite collaboration among the Government, the stakeholders and the public, food safety in Hong Kong can be enhanced. To promote public awareness of food safety, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) organises four sessions of Food Hygiene Seminar 2013 (Public Series) from July to September 2013. Focusing on the themes of "5 Keys to Food Safety" and "Make a Wise Food Choice", the Seminar will introduce in a simple and clear way the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) System and proper food handling methods. Members of the public and employees of the food business are welcome to attend the Seminar, which is free of charge and conducted in Cantonese. All participants will be awarded a certificate of attendance and a souvenir. For details, please visit the website of the CFS (

The participants give their full attention to the speaker's presentation.
The participants give their full attention to the speaker's presentation.

Upcoming Activities

Talk Series on "Make a Wise Food Choice"

The CFS will organise, in collaboration with food trade associations, food safety talks during the period from July to September. The talks are designed to promote, to the general public and the food trade alike, the concept of making a wise food choice, sourcing food or food ingredients from hygienic and reliable shops, and choosing food according to one's health condition. Besides, the opportunity will be taken through the talks to introduce ways to reduce sodium content in food. It is hoped that by raising awareness on the importance of food safety and healthy diet, everyone can enjoy food in a safe and healthy way. Active participation by all sectors is welcome. For the venues and details of these talks, please visit the CFS website (

Food Safety Q&A

Q: There are different types of olive oils. What is the correct way to label them? How can olive oil be used in cooking to make healthier dishes?

""A: The existing food legislation in Hong Kong does not provide any interpretation for olive oils, nor are there any provisions on the composition standards for these oils. In general, oil products which contain olive fruits or pomace as their ingredients can be divided into three main categories, namely, virgin olive oil, olive oil and olive-pomace oil.

According to the definitions by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the designation "olive oil" shall only be used to refer to virgin olive oils and olive oils. All three types of oils are edible as long as they meet the relevant standards. Rich in unsaturated fatty acid, they have similar fatty acid composition. However, comparing with olive oil and olive-pomace oil, virgin olive oil usually contains more oleic acid or free fatty acid (acid value).

Generally speaking, refined olive oils have a higher cooking temperature (smoke point) than pressed olive oils, and are generally better suited to cooking and deep frying. Virgin olive oil, which has a higher acid value and a lower smoke point, is usually used for salad dressing.

Members of the public should carefully read food labels and pay attention to the composition and suggested cooking methods of different olive oils in order to select the right products according to their own needs.

There is no difference between olive oils and other types of oils in terms of the energy provided by them (i.e. each gram (g) contains 9 kilocalories (kcal)). According to the Chinese Adequate Intake, 20 to 30% of energy contribution should come from fats, which means that there should be about 44 to 67g of fat from all food sources in a 2 000-kcal diet. Referring to the food pyramid, we should "Eat Less" fats and oils (one teaspoon of oil weighs about 5g).

Truth against Fallacy

Energy Drinks ≠ Sports Drinks

The caffeine content in a can of energy drink is much the same as that in a cup of coffee. Moreover, other ingredients in energy drinks such as taurine and glucuronolactone can either be found in natural food or produced in the human body. Except for caffeine which might cause adverse effects such as nervousness or anxiety in children or people with caffeine allergy, there is no evidence that any other substances in energy drinks can pose serious health risks.

However, the Scientific Committee on Food of the European Union considered that the adverse health effects caused by energy drinks may be due to the interactions between constituents in energy drinks, alcohol and physical exercise. The potential interplay of the above three parameters might lower consumers' awareness of alcohol intoxication, cause rapid loss of body water and sodium in the short run, and subsequently interfere with the heart rate and blood pressure. All these effects could pose health risks to consumers.

As some energy drinks are added with energy enhancing ingredients such as caffeine and B vitamins, as well as other substances such as taurine (a kind of amino acid) and glucuronolactone (a carbohydrate), such drinks may "mobilise energy" by stimulating the nervous system. Some energy drinks may also contain an energy source (e.g. carbohydrates). Energy drinks should not be confused with sports drinks which rehydrate the body and provide sugars and minerals, such as sodium and potassium.

As at present, the Codex Alimentarius Commission has not set any standards in relation to energy drinks. In Hong Kong, there is no specific legislation governing the standards of energy drinks. However, in Australia, formulated caffeinated beverages (energy drinks) must contain no less than 145 mg and no more than 320 mg of caffeine per litre of drink.

Advice for the Public:

Energy Drinks""""

Brain Gym


  1. Are fruits and vegetables in general good sources of dietary fibre and vitamin C?
  2. Are all fruits and vegetables cholesterol-free and with a low sodium content?
  3. How does norovirus spread?
  4. How to tell when chicken meat is thoroughly cooked?


  1. Yes
  2. Yes
  3. Faecal-oral route via contaminated food and water is the major route of transmission. Other routes of transmission include : close contact with infected patient , direct contact with contaminated object , and via aerosol or droplet.
  4. The chicken meat should be heated until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 75 oC or above and then continue to cook for at least 30 seconds. If, after cooking, the juices are still pink in colour or blood is visible when the chicken meat is cut open, the meat should be cooked again until it is well done.

Enquiry and Subscription

Printed copies of the Food Safety Bulletin can be collected at the Communication Resource Unit located at 8/F, Fa Yuen Street Municipal Services Building, 123A Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon. For enquiry, please call 2381 6096. The public may also visit the website of the CFS ( for the online version.