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Food Safety Focus (137th Issue, December 2017) – Food Incident Highlight

Use and Misuse of Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) in Foods

Last month, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) announced that a sample of prepackaged dried bamboo fungus was found to contain excessive SO2 and its usage was not declared on the label. In Hong Kong, the use of preservatives in specified food must comply with the Preservatives in Food Regulation (Cap 132BD). Furthermore, the listing of ingredients including additives in prepackaged food must comply with the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) Regulations (Cap 132W).

Apart from dried bamboo fungus, a variety of foods (e.g. dried/pickled vegetables, dried fruits) and meat products (e.g. sausages, grilled burgers) may use SO2 as a preservative. However, under Cap 132BD, SO2 is not permitted in fresh/chilled meat. Besides routine surveillance, the CFS has in place targeted surveillance measures regularly to detect the illegal use of SO2 in meat. Occasionally, individual meat traders have been found using SO2 illegally to make meat look fresher and were convicted in Hong Kong courts.