Chilled alfonsino from Japan detected with mercury exceeding legal limit

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced today (September 30) that a batch of chilled alfonsino imported from Japan was found to contain a metal contaminant, mercury, at a level exceeding the legal limit. The CFS is following up on the case.

A CFS spokesman said, "The CFS collected a sample of the above-mentioned alfonsino at the import level for testing under its regular Food Surveillance Programme. Test result showed that it contained mercury at a level of 0.81 parts per million (ppm), exceeding the legal limit of 0.5 ppm."

The spokesman said the CFS will inform the importer concerned of the irregularity. According to the information provided by the importer, the import quantity of the affected alfonsino was 5.6 kilograms. All the affected product had been marked and sealed by the CFS and did not enter the local market. Should there be sufficient evidence, prosecution will be considered.

"Mercury may affect the nervous system, particularly the developing brain. At high levels, mercury can affect foetal brain development, and affect vision, hearing, muscle co-ordination and memory in adults. Furthermore, as some international organisations such as the World Health Organization have pointed out, consuming predatory fish species is the main source of mercury intake for human beings. The report of the CFS' Total Diet Study has also pointed out that large fish or predatory fish species may contain high mercury levels (for example, tuna, alfonsino, shark, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy and king mackerel). Hence, groups particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of mercury, such as pregnant women, women planning pregnancy and young children, should opt for fish that are smaller in size for consumption and avoid consumption of the above-mentioned types of fish which may contain high mercury levels to minimise the health risk posed to the foetus, infants and young children by excessive exposure to metal contaminants in food," he added.

According to the Food Adulteration (Metallic Contamination) Regulations (Cap 132V), any person who sells food with metallic contamination above the legal limit may be prosecuted and is liable upon conviction to a fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months.

"People are advised to maintain a balanced and varied diet. To avoid health risks posed by excessive intake of metallic contaminants, pregnant women, women planning pregnancy and young children should avoid eating large or predatory fish," the spokesman said.

The CFS will continue to follow up on the case and take appropriate action.

Ends/Wednesday, September 30, 2015