The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has conducted microbiological and chemical testing on some 53 000 food samples in 2003 and the results show that food safety remained at a very high standard. The overall failure rate for both microbiological and chemical testing was 0.3% against 0.5% and 0.3% in 2001 and 2002 respectively.
While microbiological tests target at pathogenic bacteria and viruses, chemical tests are for the detection of natural toxins, food additives and contaminants.
Regarding microbiological tests, about 17,000 food samples were analysed with unacceptable levels of pathogens found in 13 samples. This amounts to a failure rate of 0.1%, compared with 0.3% in 2001 and 0.1% in 2002.
The pathogens detected included bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium perfringens. This reflected the importance of good hygiene practice in food handling and the need for proper storage during cooling, transport and sale pending consumption. Though the findings indicate that the failure rate remained low, FEHD has remained vigilant by closely monitoring the situation to ensure continuous improvement. Manufacturers are urged to ensure that all food for sale is fit for human consumption and to exercise due diligence as well. Consumers are strongly advised to patronize licensed and reputable restaurants.
Turning to chemical analyses, about 34,000 food samples were tested in 2003 and 128 were found unsatisfactory, representing a failure rate of 0.4%. It is encouraging to see that the figure remains low, compared with 0.6% in 2001 to 0.4% in 2002. There was no report of food poisoning due to consumption of contaminated vegetables. Also, the compliance with the use of food colours improved considerably over the past three years.