CFS announces food safety report for July

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (August 31) released the findings of its food safety report for last month. The results of about 13 900 food samples were found to be satisfactory except for five unsatisfactory samples. The overall satisfactory rate was 99.9 per cent.

A CFS spokesman said about 1 300 food samples were collected for microbiological tests, some 4 200 samples were taken for chemical tests and the remaining 8 400 (including about 7 700 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 4 000 samples of vegetables and fruit and their products; 700 samples of meat and poultry and their products; 1 600 samples of aquatic and related products; 900 samples of milk, milk products and frozen confections; 1 000 samples of cereals, grains and their products; and 5 700 samples of other food commodities (including beverages, bakery products and snacks).

The five unsatisfactory samples comprised a cucumber sample detected with pesticide residue exceeding the legal limit; a sour mustard sample detected with a preservative, sulphur dioxide, exceeding the legal limit; a turmeric rice sample found to contain a non-permitted preservative, sorbic acid; an edible ice sample detected with coliform bacteria exceeding the level set in the Microbiological Guidelines for Food; and a milk drink sample detected with excessive total bacterial count.

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 July 31 this year, the CFS had taken over 114 100 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 limits (MRLs) of pesticide residues in food set in the Regulation are not safety indicators. They are the maximum concentrations 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 MRLs will not necessarily lead to any adverse health effects.

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

Ends/Thursday, August 31, 2017