Hong Kong (HKSAR) - The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) today (July 31) released the findings of its food safety report for June. Of the 9,700 food samples tested, 20 were found unsatisfactory (seven were announced earlier) and the overall satisfactory rate was 99.8 per cent.
A CFS spokesman said about 4,000 food samples were taken for chemical tests. Some 1,700 samples were collected for microbiological tests and the remaining 4,000 (including about 3,800 samples taken from food imported from Japan) for testing of radiation levels.
The microbiological tests covered pathogens and hygienic indicators while the chemical tests aimed at detecting pesticides, preservatives, metallic contamination, colouring matters, veterinary drug residues and plasticisers, etc.
The samples included vegetables and fruits and their products; meat and poultry and their products; aquatic products; milk, milk products and frozen confections; and cereals, grains and their products.
Vegetables, fruits and their products -------------------------------------
The CFS took about 2,700 samples of fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes,preserved vegetables and pickled fruits, dried vegetables and ready-to-eat vegetables for analysis.
One sample of water spinach was found to contain a pesticide, Triazophos, at a level of 0.42 parts per million (ppm).
"According to risk assessment, it is unlikely that normal consumption of the above water spinach sample would pose any adverse health effects to consumers. Nevertheless, long-term high consumption of vegetables with the same level of Triazophos may possibly affect the nervous system," the spokesman said.
One sample of Chinese cabbage was found to contain a metallic contaminant, cadmium, at a level of 0.2 ppm, exceeding the legal limit of 0.1 ppm.
"It was unlikely that normal consumption of the vegetable concerned would pose any adverse health effects to consumers," the spokesman said.
"Fruit and vegetables are important components of a healthy diet as they are good sources of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. They should be washed thoroughly and soaked before cooking to remove cadmium or pesticides adhered to the surface," he added.
All the remaining samples passed other tests (e.g. pathogens and preservatives).
Meat, poultry and their products --------------------------------
The CFS completed the testing of 700 samples, including fresh, chilled and frozen pork, beef and poultry, ready-to-eat dishes of meat and poultry served at food establishments, and meat- and poultry-made products, such as Chinese preserved meat, sausages and ham.
One sample of fresh beef was found to contain sulphur dioxide, which is not permitted in fresh, frozen and chilled meat, at a level of 25 ppm.
"Sulphur dioxide is of low toxicity.
Based on the level detected, normal consumption should not pose any adverse health effects. For individuals who are allergic to this preservative, there may be symptoms like breathing difficulty, headache and nausea," the spokesman said.
In respect of pathogens, a ham sample and a marinated sliced goose meat sample were detected with Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella respectively.
"Listeria monocytogenes could cause symptoms such as diarrhoea and fever. While healthy individuals rarely develop symptoms, the effects on pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and people with lowered immunity could be severe, including miscarriage and meningitis," the spokesman said.
"Salmonella may cause gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea," he added.
Results of other tests (e.g.
veterinary drug residues and colouring matters) were found to be satisfactory.
Aquatic products ----------------
The CFS took some 1,000 samples of fish, shellfish, shrimp, prawn, crab, squid and their products for analyses.
Other than the five grilled grouper samples found to contain Tetrodotoxin announced last month, residues of a veterinary drug, malachite green, were detected in four fish samples. They comprise a green grouper sample, at a level of 2,300 parts per billion (ppb), and three freshwater grouper samples, at levels between 3 ppb and 467 ppb.
"Malachite green is not allowed in food and consumption of food containing malachite green may pose potential public health risk," the spokesman said.
Samples for other tests (e.g. pathogens, preservatives and metallic contamination) were found to be satisfactory.
Milk, milk products and frozen confections ------------------------------------------
The CFS took about 1,300 samples of ice-cream, cheese, milk and milk products for tests. Other than the two ice-cream samples, which were found to contain coliform organisms and have its total bacteria count exceeding the legal limits announced in mid-July, a fresh milk sample was found containing 160,000 bacteria per millilitre, exceeding the legal limit of 30,000 per millilitre, and was detected with coliform organisms in one-tenth of a millilitre, which did not meet the legal requirement.
"The exceedance of legal limits in both the total bacteria count and coliform organisms indicates that the hygienic conditions of the sample were undesirable. Follow-up samples have been collected from the premises and milk factory concerned for testing. The results were satisfactory," the spokesman said.
Samples that underwent other tests (e.g.
pathogens, melamine, preservatives, veterinary drug residues and colouring matters) were all satisfactory.
Cereals, grains and their products ----------------------------------
The CFS took some 300 samples of rice, noodles, flour, bread and breakfast cereals for analyses. All samples passed the tests.
Other food commodities ----------------------
The CFS took about 3,600 food samples consisting of mixed dishes, dim sum, beverages, sushi, sashimi, sugar, sweets, condiments, sauces, snacks, eggs and egg products for tests.
One sample of Vietnamese rice roll was found to contain Bacillus cereus and one sample of salad was detected with Staphylococcus aureus at levels of 650,000 and 63,000 per gram respectively.
Intake of food with an excessive amount of Bacillus cereus or Staphylococcus aureus may cause gastrointestinal upsets such as vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea, the spokesman said.
In addition, an egg roll sample was found to contain an antioxidant, butylated hydroxytoluene, at a level of 450 ppm, exceeding the legal limit of 200 ppm.
"Based on the levels of antioxidant detected, normal consumption should not pose any adverse health effects," the spokesman said.
Results of other tests (e.g. melamine, plasticisers, veterinary drug residues and colouring matters) were satisfactory.
The CFS has taken follow-up actions on all the unsatisfactory samples such as asking the vendors concerned to stop selling and to dispose of the affected food, taking follow-up samples and issuing warning letters. Prosecution will be taken if there is sufficient evidence.
The spokesman advised consumers to buy ice-cream and frozen confections from reliable retailers, not to buy or consume meat which is unnaturally red, and to maintain a balanced diet to avoid excessive intake of harmful substances from a small range of food items.
He also reminded importers to source milk products from reliable food manufacturers.
They should also pay attention to temperature control during transportation. For manufacturers, they should ensure that their product production processes are hygienic and include proper disinfection of equipment.
The food trade should comply with the legal requirements, follow Good Manufacturing Practice, and use permitted food additives, pesticides and preservatives in an appropriate manner. They should also observe the "Five Keys to Food Safety" to minimise the risk of food poisoning.
The spokesman further reminded the trade to maintain a good recording system in accordance with the Food Safety Ordinance to allow source tracing if needed to safeguard public health.
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