Fresh beef and pork samples found to contain sulphur dioxide

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced today (September 14) that a fresh beef sample and a fresh pork sample were found to contain sulphur dioxide, a preservative which is not permitted to be used in fresh meat. The CFS is following up on the cases.

A spokesman for the CFS said, "The CFS collected the fresh beef and fresh pork samples from two fresh provision shops in Shau Kei Wan and Ho Man Tin respectively for testing under its routine Food Surveillance Programme. The test results showed that the fresh beef and fresh pork samples contained sulphur dioxide at levels of 59 parts per million (ppm) and 293 ppm respectively."

According to the Preservatives in Food Regulation (subsidiary legislation of Cap 132), it is an offence to add sulphur dioxide to fresh or chilled meat. The maximum penalty is a $50,000 fine and six months' imprisonment.

The CFS has informed the shop operators concerned of the above-mentioned irregularities.

Sulphur dioxide is a commonly used preservative in a variety of foods including dried fruits, pickled vegetables and meat products such as sausages and grilled burgers, but under the Preservatives in Food Regulation, it is not permitted in fresh or chilled meat. Nonetheless, individual meat traders have been found illegally using sulphur dioxide to make meat look fresher. This preservative is of low toxicity. As it is water soluble, most of it can be removed through washing and cooking. However, susceptible individuals who are allergic to this preservative may experience breathing difficulties, headache and nausea.

The spokesman reminded the food trade to comply with the law and not to sell fresh or chilled meat adulterated with sulphur dioxide. Members of the public should purchase meat from reliable market stalls or fresh provision shops. They should avoid buying or consuming meat which is unnaturally red and maintain a balanced diet to avoid malnutrition or excessive exposure to chemicals from a small range of food items.

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

Ends/Wednesday, September 14, 2016