CFS announces food safety report for January

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (February 28) released the findings of its food safety report for last month. The results of about 12 900 food samples tested were found to be satisfactory except for five unsatisfactory samples which were announced earlier. The overall satisfactory rate was 99.9 per cent.

A CFS spokesman said about 2 300 food samples were collected for microbiological tests, some 3 800 samples were taken for chemical tests and the remaining 6 800 (including about 6 500 taken from food imported from Japan) were collected to test radiation levels.

The microbiological tests covered pathogens and hygienic indicators, while the chemical tests aimed at detecting pesticides, preservatives, metallic contaminants, colouring matters, veterinary drug residues and others.

The samples comprised about 3 800 samples of vegetables and fruit and their products; 500 samples of meat and poultry and their products; 1 400 samples of aquatic and related products; 1 500 samples of milk, milk products and frozen confections; 400 samples of cereals, grains and their products; and 5 300 samples of other food commodities (including beverages, bakery products and snacks).

The five unsatisfactory samples comprised two vegetable and fruit samples detected with pesticide residues exceeding the legal limits; a frozen lobster tail sample found to contain a preservative, sulphur dioxide, at a level exceeding the legal limit; a canned soft drink sample found to contain a preservative, benzoic acid, at a level exceeding the legal limit and a bottled preserved bean curd sample contaminated with Bacillus cereus.

The CFS has taken follow-up action on the unsatisfactory samples including informing the vendors concerned of the test results, instructing them to stop selling the affected food items and tracing the sources of the food items in question.

Since the Pesticide Residues in Food Regulation (Cap 132CM) came into effect on August 1, 2014, as of January 31 this year, the CFS had taken over 94 800 food samples at import, wholesale and retail levels for testing for pesticide residues. The overall unsatisfactory rate is less than 0.2 per cent.

The spokesman added that excessive pesticide residues in food may arise from the trade not observing Good Agricultural Practice, e.g. using excessive pesticides and/or not allowing sufficient time for pesticides to decompose before harvesting. The maximum residue limit (MRL) of pesticide residues in food is not a safety indicator. It is the maximum concentration of pesticide residues to be permitted in a food commodity under Good Agricultural Practice when applying pesticides. In this connection, consumption of food with pesticide residues higher than the MRL will not necessarily lead to any adverse health effects.

Bacillus cereus is commonly found in the environment. Unhygienic conditions in food processing and storage may give rise to its growth. Consuming food contaminated with excessive Bacillus cereus may cause gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting and diarrhoea.

The spokesman reminded the food trade to ensure that food is fit for consumption and meets legal requirements. Consumers should patronise reliable shops when buying food and maintain a balanced diet to minimise food risks.

Ends/Tuesday, February 28, 2017