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Food Safety Focus (95th Issue, June 2014) – Food Incident Highlight

Boric Acid in Rice Dumpling

Recently, seasonal food surveillance conducted by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) revealed that a rice dumpling sample contained a non-permitted preservative, boric acid. The CFS immediately conducted source tracing and suspended sale of the products.

Boric acid was used in food in the past due to its preservative properties and ability to increase elasticity of foods. Over the years, its use as food additive has been replaced by safer alternatives. The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded in 1961 that boric acid was not suitable for use as food additive.

In Hong Kong, boric acid is not a permitted preservative under the Preservatives in Food Regulation. The sale of food containing boric acid as a preservative is an offence which carries a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine and six months' imprisonment. The food trade should comply with legal requirements and adhere to Good Manufacturing Practice.