Prepackaged dried conch sample detected with sulphur dioxide exceeding legal limit and in breach of food labelling regulation

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (November 29) announced that a sample of prepackaged dried conch was detected with sulphur dioxide, a preservative, at a level exceeding the legal limit, and the functional class and the name of the additive were also not declared on the food label. Members of the public should not consume the affected batch of the product. The trade should also stop using or selling the affected batch of the product immediately if they possess it.

Product details are as follows:

Product name: (Not available in English)
Brand: (Not available in English)
Net weight: 225 grams
Place of origin: United States
Distributor: (Not available in English)
Best-before date: December 20, 2023

"The CFS collected the above-mentioned dried conch sample from a supermarket in Wong Tai Sin for testing under its routine Food Surveillance Programme. The test result showed that the sample contained sulphur dioxide at a level of 249 parts per million (ppm), exceeding the legal limit of 30 ppm. The functional class and name of the additive were also not declared on the food label," a CFS spokesman said.

"The CFS has informed the vendor concerned of the irregularity and instructed it to stop sales and remove from shelves the affected batch of the product. According to the CFS's instructions, the vendor concerned has initiated a recall of the affected batch of the product. Members of the public may call its hotline at 2742 9811 during office hours for enquiries about the recall of the product concerned," the spokesman added.

Sulphur dioxide is a commonly used as a preservative in a variety of foods including dried vegetables, dried fruits, pickled vegetables and salted fish products. Sulphur dioxide is water soluble, and most of it can be removed through washing and cooking. However, susceptible individuals who are allergic to this preservative may experience breathing difficulties, headaches and nausea after consumption.

The spokesman reminded the food trade that the use of preservatives in food must comply with the Preservatives in Food Regulation (Cap. 132BD). Furthermore, the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) Regulations (Cap. 132W) require that prepackaged food shall be legibly marked or labelled with a list of ingredients. The regulations also state that for all prepackaged food for sale in Hong Kong containing sulphite in a concentration of 10 parts per million or more, the functional class of the sulphite and its name shall be specified in the list of ingredients. Offenders are liable to a maximum fine of $50,000 and six months' imprisonment upon conviction.

The CFS will alert the trade, continue to follow up on the incident and take appropriate action. An investigation is ongoing.
Ends/Tuesday, November 29, 2022