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Food Safety Focus (85th Issue, August 2013) – Food Incident Highlight

Cadmium in Fan Scallop

Last month, the local media reported that fan scallops sold in local markets and restaurants were found to be contaminated with cadmium.

Cadmium is a naturally occurring metallic element in the Earth's crust. It can also be released to the environment by human activities. Shellfish generally contains higher levels of cadmium due to their feeding habits. Acute toxicity of cadmium due to dietary exposure is very unlikely but prolonged excessive intake of cadmium may have adverse effects on the kidneys.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has not established a maximum level of cadmium for scallops. The Centre for Food Safety has been conducting routine surveillance for heavy metals including cadmium in foods collected from import, wholesale and retail levels. In 2012, testing results for cadmium in scallops were all satisfactory.

To minimise food risk, individuals should maintain a balanced diet and avoid over-indulgence in shellfish consumption. Members of the public are advised to patronise reliable shops when buying seafood, including scallops. They are also advised to remove the viscera before cooking as the concentration of heavy metals, shellfish toxins and microbes are generally higher in the viscera of contaminated shellfish.