Hong Kong (HKSAR) - The Government today (May 4) gazetted the Pesticide Residues in Food Regulation (the Regulation) to facilitate effective regulatory control of pesticide residues in food and better protect public health.
A spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau pointed out that at present, while there aregeneral provisions under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132) that all food on sale for human consumption must be wholesome, unadulterated and fit for human consumption, there is no specific legal provision that regulates the level of pesticide residues in food.
"To better protect public health, facilitate effective regulatory control and promote harmonisation between local and international standards, the Government proposes to make the Regulation under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance to regulate the level of pesticide residues in food," the spokesman said.
The Regulation defines "pesticide" and other related terms in a way consistent with the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), the international food standard setting authority. The Regulation also adopts Codex's classification of foods.
This has the benefit of adopting nomenclatures consistent with those used in international trade.
The Regulation specifies in its Schedule 1 a list of maximum residue limits (MRLs)/extraneous maximum residue limits (EMRLs) for certain pesticide-food pairs (i.e. the maximum concentration of specified pesticide residues permitted in specified food commodities). The presence of any of these pesticide residues in food at levels exceeding the MRLs/EMRLs is not permitted under the Regulation.
The spokesman said, "The formulation of the list of MRLs/EMRLs is based primarily on the available standards recommended by Codex, supplemented by the standards of the Mainland and other major food-exporting countries to Hong Kong.
These standards have been scrutinised by the Centre for Food Safety on the basis of risk assessment to ensure that they are adequate to protect public health in Hong Kong.
"Taking into account the heavy reliance of Hong Kong on imported food, such an approach will strike a balance between protecting public health and maintaining a stable supply of food in Hong Kong."
To facilitate the trade's use of natural pesticides and their residues, which are identical to or indistinguishable from natural food components, a list of exempted pesticides has been specified in Schedule 2 to the Regulation.
Except for exempted pesticides, the import and sale of food containing pesticide residues with no MRLs/EMRLs in Schedule 1 is only allowed if the consumption of the food concerned is not dangerous or prejudicial to health. In deciding whether the consumption of the food concerned is dangerous or prejudicial to health, the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene will conduct risk assessment.
The spokesman said, "As new pesticides with wider applications on crops keep emerging, Schedules 1 and 2 to the Regulation will be updated regularly."
To allow sufficient time for the trade to comply with the Regulation, there will be a grace period of about two years prior to the commencement of the Regulation. During the grace period, the Centre for Food Safety will provide briefings, training and guidelines for different sectors to prepare them for the commencement of the Regulation.
The Regulation will be tabled in the Legislative Council on May 9.Subject to the negative vetting procedures of the Legislative Council, the Regulation will commence on August 1, 2014.
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