Frequently Asked Questions on Sudan Dyes Found in Eggs

1. What are Sudan dyes?
A. Sudan dyes are synthetic chemical dyes which can be used for colouring hydrocarbon solvents, oils, fats, waxes and plastics. In Hong Kong, Sudan dyes are non-permitted colouring matters under the Colouring Matter in Food Regulations, Cap.132H.
2. How would Sudan dyes affect health?
A. Sudan dyes have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, however, there is inadequate evidence that it causes cancer in humans.
3. What measures are in place to tackle the incident?
A. The CFS is highly concerned of the incident. Close liaison has been maintained with Mainland authorities and the trade to keep updated of the latest situation. In this regard, the CFS has immediately stepped up surveillance in the local markets. In addition, upon the request of the CFS, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) agreed on the temporarily suspension of export of hen eggs from Hunan Province to Hong Kong.
4. Can I identify the eggs tainted with Sudan dyes by their appearances?
A. No, it is difficult to identify whether the eggs are tainted with Sudan dyes by their appearances. However, members of public should avoid buying those eggs of unknown origin or if they are unreasonably cheap.
5. Will cooking (e.g. boiling, frying) destroy Sudan dye?
A. Sudan dyes are rather heat-stable and do not decompose at normal cooking temperatures.
6. If I have eaten the affected eggs, has my health been damaged?
A. Considering the available information on the levels of Sudan dyes detected in affected eggs, risk assessment suggested that there is no immediate health risk, and the long term risk to health, such as causing cancer, is likely to be very small upon usual consumption of eggs. However, this risk would be greater for people who frequently eat extremely large amounts of eggs. Therefore, it is important to eat a balanced diet to reduce the risk of ingesting excessive contaminants from a small range of food items.
7. Are eggs in HK safe to eat?
A. As the levels of Sudan dyes found in the affected eggs is considered very low, risk assessment suggested that usual consumption of eggs is unlikely to pose significant health risk. Besides various Mainland provinces, Hong Kong imports eggs from a variety of countries such as the USA, Europe, Japan, etc. Based on the investigation so far, there is only a limited fraction of eggs available in the local market that may be tainted with Sudan dyes. Egg is a very economical and nutritious food item, it would be unnecessary to leave it out totally from our diet.
8. Apart from duck eggs and hen eggs, have other eggs been affected?
A. Results available so far showed that only duck eggs from Fujian and Hubei, which labelled as “red yolk”, and hen eggs reported to come from Hunan are tested positive for Sudan dyes.
9. If the risk is very small, why removed the affected eggs?
A. Based on the present information, usual consumption of eggs is unlikely to post significant health risk. However, Sudan dyes are non-permitted colouring matters under the Colouring Matter in Food Regulations, Cap.132H. Therefore, affected eggs cannot be sold in Hong Kong.
10. With regard to the recent laboratory testing, what should I do when buying / consuming eggs?
A. Members of the public are advised to buy eggs from reputable shops. They should pay special attention to the origin of the eggs and avoid buying and eating those products labelled as “red yolk” eggs.
11. What should I do with the duck eggs at home which were produced by Hubei Shendan Healthy Food Co. Ltd ?
A. Although the levels of Sudan dyes found in the affected duck eggs is considered very low and the health risk is low, it would be sensible to avoid any exposure to this harmful chemical. You should stop eating these duck eggs, and return any remaining ones to the shop from where you had purchased them; in this case, it should be “Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium Ltd”.
12. How can I report to the CFS if I notice sale of “red yolk” eggs in local markets?
A. If members of the public notice any sale of “red yolk” eggs, they should immediately report it to the CFS via 24 hour hotline (2868 0000) for our follow-up action.
13. As a food trader, how should I source the eggs for selling?
A. Traders are urged to be cautions about the origins from which you source your eggs, and should do so from credible sources only. Traders are urged to stop importing or selling those products labelled as “red yolk” eggs. Contravention of the Regulation is liable to a maximum fine of HK$50,000 and imprisonment of six months.