CFS announces test results on preservatives in preserved fruits and vegetables

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (February 7) announced the results of a recently completed targeted food surveillance project to assess the use of preservatives in preserved fruits and vegetables. Among the 450 samples collected, test results of two raisin samples were found to be unsatisfactory. The overall satisfactory rate was 99.6 per cent.

A spokesman for the CFS said that samples of preserved vegetables (such as cucumber, radish, leaf mustard, rakkyo, ginger and chillies) and preserved fruits (such as dried mango, dried pineapple, raisins, apricots, plums, dried apple rings, sour peach and olives) were collected at different retail outlets, including supermarkets, grocery stores, snack shops and market stalls, in October and November last year for preservative testing of sulphur dioxide, benzoic acid, sorbic acid and parabens.

"Test results showed that the two unsatisfactory raisin samples were detected to contain sulphur dioxide at levels of 2 300 parts per million (ppm) and 3 700 ppm respectively, exceeding the legal limit of 1 500 ppm. Sulphur dioxide is of low toxicity. The detected levels of preservatives in the raisin samples are unlikely to pose any adverse health effect to consumers upon normal consumption. However, long-term excessive consumption of raisins with 3 700 ppm of sulphur dioxide may affect the digestive system. For individuals who are allergic to this preservative, there may be symptoms of breathing difficulty, headache and nausea," the spokesman said.

Regarding the unsatisfactory samples, the CFS has taken follow-up action including source tracing, requesting the vendor concerned to stop selling the products, and issuing warning letters. Prosecution will be taken if there is sufficient evidence.

The spokesman reminded the food trade that the use of preservatives in food must comply with the Preservatives in Food Regulation. Offenders are liable to a maximum fine of $50,000 and six months' imprisonment upon conviction. In addition, the trade should follow Good Manufacturing Practice, and source food and ingredients from reliable suppliers. They should also maintain a good recording system in accordance with the requirements of the Food Safety Ordinance to allow source tracing if needed.

He advised members of the public to buy food from reliable suppliers, and to maintain a balanced diet so as to avoid excessive intake of certain harmful substances as a result of frequent consumption of a small range of food items.

Ends/Friday, February 7, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:31