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Food Safety Focus (214th Issue, May 2024) – Article 2

Pork Jowl - Safe to Eat?

Reported by Dr. Eunice FOK, Veterinary Officer,
Slaughterhouse (Veterinary) Section, Centre for Food Safety

Pork jowl refers to “the part of meat connecting the head and trunk of a pig”. In March 2024, there were news reports about the use of poor quality pork jowl, which was said to contain “a number of lymph nodes, lipomas and thyroid glands”, for food manufacturing processes in Fuyang, Mainland China. It was reported that consuming processed meat products made from such pork jowl might result in adverse health effects. The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) reported this incident in a Food Incident Post on 19 March 2024. The CFS's investigation did not identify local sale or import of the affected products. 

Pork is a popular meat and a common food ingredient for preparing various dishes locally. Control measures by the Government are in place at different levels to ensure the food safety of pork supplied to the market in Hong Kong.

Control Measures for Live Pigs Supplied for Pork Production in Hong Kong

The majority of live pigs are imported from Mainland China and the remaining ones come from local farms. To safeguard food safety, imported pigs must be sourced from registered farms and accompanied by valid Animal Health Certificates. On the other hand, local pig farms are monitored by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. All pigs must be slaughtered in the two licensed slaughterhouses in Hong Kong, namely Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse and Tsuen Wan Slaughterhouse, where they must undergo stringent ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection. 

Suspected diseased or injured pigs are screened out for isolation slaughter during ante-mortem inspection. Meat inspection is performed by qualified health inspectors. If the health inspector considers that the animal is suffering from any disease or condition rendering the carcass, offal or the affected parts unfit for human consumption, he/she shall condemn the animal carcass, offal or the affected parts and order for their destruction. 

In addition, urine samples are also collected from every batch of pigs admitted into the slaughterhouses for testing of residues of agricultural chemicals and veterinary drugs in accordance with the Public Health (Animals and Birds) (Chemical Residues) Regulation, Cap. 139N. If samples are found to contain prohibited chemical residues, the concerned batches of pigs in the slaughterhouses would be withheld from entering the food chain and destroyed.

The above measures ensure that only meat fit for human consumption is released from the slaughterhouses for sale in the market.

Figure: Ante-mortem and Post-mortem Inspection of Pigs in Hong Kong Slaughterhouses

Regulation of Imported Pork in Hong Kong

The basic requirement, as stipulated in Section 54 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (PHMSO), is that no food intended for sale should be unfit for human consumption. Imported pork in Hong Kong is regulated by Imported Game, Meat, Poultry and Eggs Regulations (IGMPER), Cap. 132AK. Specifically, Regulation 4(1)(a) of Cap. 132AK requires meat, poultry or eggs to be imported with a health certificate issued by an issuing entity recognised by the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene.

Food Safety Surveillance for Pork and its Product in Hong Kong

The CFS also collects food samples, including pork and its products, at various levels including import, wholesale, and retail/catering for routine, targeted, and seasonal projects, and carries out follow-up actions as required. (For details, please refer to current Issue Article 1.)

Advice to the Public

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