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

Issue Date 22.9.2023
Source of Information

The Centre for Food Safety

Food Product

Prepackaged dates

Product Name and Description

Product details are as follows:

Product name: 一級蜜棗 (Not available in English)
Brand: 南北行 (Not available in English)
Net weight: 16 taels
Best-before date: October 20, 2024
Distributor: 南北行參茸葯材有限公司 (Not available in English)

Reason For Issuing Alert
  • The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) collected the above-mentioned sample from a retail outlet in Tsim Sha Tsui for testing when following up on a related incident. The test result showed that the sample contained sulphur dioxide at a level of 230 parts per million (ppm), exceeding the legal limit of 100 ppm. The name of the additive was also not declared on the food label.
  • Sulphur dioxide is a preservative which can be used 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 CFS 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 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.
Action Taken by the Centre for Food Safety
  • The CFS has informed the vendor concerned of the irregularities and instructed them to stop sale and remove from shelves the affected batch of the product. The distributor concerned has initiated a recall according to the CFS's instructions.
  • The CFS will alert the trade, continue to follow up on the incident and take appropriate action. Investigation is ongoing.
Advice to the Trade

Stop using or selling the affected batch of the product immediately if they possess it

Advice to Consumers

Should not consume the affected batch of the product

Further Information

The CFS press release

Members of the public may call its hotline at 2742 9811 during office hours for enquiries about the recall.

(Photograph for reference only)

Centre for Food Safety
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department