CFS proactively follows up on the "substandard cooking oil" incident in Taiwan

With regard to the Taiwanese authorities' detection of "substandard cooking oil" and the use of it in the production of food for sale in Taiwan market, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has contacted the Taiwanese authorities and launched thorough investigation into the incident. A CFS spokesman today (September 5) appealed to the trade to stop selling or using oil or food products that may be affected.

The spokesman said, "Learning that 'substandard cooking oil' was used by food factories in Taiwan, the CFS has contacted the Taiwanese authorities for more information. Taking into account the wide range of food affected and the seriousness of the incident, the CFS has also proactively followed up on the issue in the Hong Kong market in parallel."

"In the first day of investigation today, the CFS has approached major sectors of the food trade including cooking oil, bakeries and 'dim sum' manufacturers. Preliminary results showed that the Maxim's Cakes had used a kind of lard oil produced by the Chang Guann Co., Ltd in making its pineapple buns. The vendor concerned has taken the affected product off the shelves and stopped selling it," he added.

During today's investigation, another importer, Dah Chong Hong Limited, was also found to have imported some cooking oil that may be related to the incident. To facilitate CFS' investigation and avoid sending confused messages to the market, the importer concerned will initiate a recall of the affected product for mark and seal by the CFS. Further information will be uploaded to CFS' website later.

Furthermore, the CFS has conducted inspections to the premises of the vendors concerned (for instance their warehouses and outlets) and taken samples of high-risk food items for testing.

At present, there is not any established scientific method to test and identify the cooking oil made by "gutter oil". The international practice for ascertaining the quality of cooking oil is by conducting tests on the amount of Benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), aflatoxins and metal contaminants contained in the oil. The CFS was given to know that the Taiwanese authorities adopted a similar approach for testing. The CFS, in principle, will adopt the aforesaid method as well.

In the past year, the CFS has taken over 450 cooking oil samples for testing of the above-mentioned chemicals under the regular Food Surveillance Programme. All samples were found to be satisfactory.

Apart from the above-mentioned actions taken, CFS will also alert the trade to the "substandard cooking oil" incident and appeal to them to stop manufacturing, processing and selling any cooking oil or products suspected to be involved in the incident. They should also initiate a recall of the affected products and contact the CFS immediately.

Section 52 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132) provides that any person sells to the prejudice of a purchaser any food which is not of the nature, substance or quality of the food demanded by the purchaser shall be guilty of an offence, which is liable to a maximum fine of $10,000 and imprisonment for three months upon conviction. Furthermore, pursuant to section 54 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132), all food for sale in Hong Kong, locally produced or imported, should be fit for human consumption. An offender is subject to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months upon conviction.

Members of the public who have doubts in related products they have purchased should stop consumption and contact the concerned retailers.

The CFS will continue to monitor the situation, and take appropriate actions to safeguard public health.

Ends/Friday, September 5, 2014