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Keeping Hong Kong’s Food Safe

During November, Hong Kong’s Center for Food Safety found 99.6 percent of the 4,700 food samples it tested safe.

About 3,000 were subjected to chemical tests and the rest received microbiological and other testing.

The Hong Kong center uses microbiological tests to check for pathogens and viruses and chemical tests to detect pesticides, preservatives, metallic contamination, and coloring.

Among the foods tested were vegetables, fruits, fruit and vegetable products, meat, poultry, and meat products, aquatic products, milk, milk products, frozen confections, cereals, grains, and grain and cereal products.

About 1,600 samples of fruits, vegetables, and related products were subject to both microbiological and chemical tests.

Among the problems:  The metal contaminant cadmium was found in samples of Romaine lettuce hearts and Chinese white cabbage.  Sorbic acid was found in higher than allowed levels in figs.  Dried raisins, dried apricots, dried tomatoes, dried sweet potato and skinned chili pepper were all found to contain higher than allowed sulphur dioxide levels.

No pesticides, pathogens or “colouring matters” were found.

Five hundred meat and poultry samples and 400 seafood products were tested without any problems detected.  Fish and shellfish were tested for microorganisms, chemicals and biotoxins.

Two import samples of pure ice cream from the same batch had bacterial counts at roughly double the legally allowed limit.  The product was turned back without being introduced to the market.

It was the only problem in the 900 dairy products subjected to tests during November.

About 100 samples of cereals, grains and related products were tested and the only problems were a vegetarian sausage and flour tortillas.  The tortillas contained the preservative propionic acid at higher than allowed levels.

A baked rice seafood sample tested was found to contain high levels of Clostridium perfringens.

About 1,100 samples of snacks, dim sum, sushi, condiments, and sauces were also tested.

In terms of trends, the Hong Kong Center for Food Safety’s spokesman said excessive use of food preservatives, poor hygiene conditions during food processing, and not paying attention to cooking temperatures are among the main concerns.

Among the Center’s possible follow up actions is prosecution of responsible vendors.

© Food Safety News