Imports and sale of all edible oil of animal origins produced in Taiwan prohibited with immediate effect

As a wide range of products may be involved in the re-emergence of substandard edible oil in Taiwan, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced today (October 9) that the Centre, having conducted risk assessments, decided to prohibit imports into and sale within Hong Kong of all edible oil of animal origins produced in Taiwan with immediate effect. Traders who have the products concerned in their possession should immediately stop using and selling the products and should recall the products to safeguard public health and food safety.

The spokesman said, "The Centre took the initiative to contact the Taiwanese authorities for further information upon noting the relevant media reports yesterday regarding substandard lard produced by Cheng I Food Co., Ltd. to find out if the affected products have been imported into Hong Kong or not. Meanwhile, the CFS has alerted the trade to the incident and required importers and distributors to submit records within the time limit set in order to find out if the affected lard has been on sale in Hong Kong. Initial investigation results showed that two local edible oil importers have imported the lard that might have been affected. The CFS has marked and sealed the relevant products pending further investigation results and will take corresponding follow-up actions."

The spokesman continued, "The latest information released by the Taiwanese authorities indicated that, besides the lard produced on or after February 25 this year, other oil products of animal origins are also affected. Furthermore, based on results of our assessment, the CFS has reasons to believe that the production dates of the affected oil products might be earlier than that announced by the Taiwanese authorities. Taking into account the two factors, the CFS decided to prohibit imports and sales within Hong Kong all edible oil of animal origins from Taiwan in order to further safeguard safety of edible oil and reduce the possibility of causing hazards to public health."

According 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. Section 52 of the Ordinance 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 and is liable to a maximum fine of $10,000 and imprisonment for three months upon conviction.

The spokesman said, "The CFS will also seek legal advice and consider invoking powers conferred on the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene by the Food Safety Ordinance to issue a Food Safety Order. Offender of any section of the Order is subject to a maximum fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for 12 months upon conviction."

The CFS will continue to follow up on the incident and take appropriate actions including keeping close contact with the Taiwanese authorities and conducting checks at high-risk businesses like Taiwan food product outlets, bakery products and shops selling dim sum in various districts to ensure no affected products have been used or put on sale. Furthermore, in view of public concern over the safety of edible oil, the CFS has enhanced surveillance of edible oil and relatively high-risk foods imported from other places (including Taiwan) for testing of contaminants to safeguard food safety and public health.

Ends/Thursday, October 9, 2014