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Hong Kong Finds Dye, Pathogen, AOZ in Food

In 3,000 tests of food samples during February, Hong Kong’s Center for Food Safety found only three problems.

A sample of Chinese preserved pork sausage was found to contain “Red 2G,” which is not permitted in food.  Red 2G is a food dye.

A curry crab sample tested positive for the pathogen Clostridium perfringens.  And, a small snakehead fish sample returned a result of 0.008 parts per million of AOZ, a low level unlikely to pose adverse effects on consumers with normal consumption.

AOZ is the rapidly metabolized version of the antibacterial drug furazolidone, which is feed additive for poultry, cattle, and farmed fish in China.

The Center for Food Safety has a three-tier food surveillance approach with routine, targeted and seasonal food surveillance at the import, wholesale, and retail levels, with chemical and microbiological tests.  It also conducts some tests using radiation.

It releases monthly data so the public has timely information about food safety in Hong Kong.

Just over half the tests conducted in February (52 percent) were of fruits and vegetables.  The other half were for milk and milk products including frozen confections (18 percent); meat and poultry (8 percent); aquatic products (7 percent); and assorted other products (15 percent.)

In 75 percent of the tests, chemical analysis was conducted, and in 20 percent the samples were subjected to microbiological analysis.   The remaining 5 percent of the tests involved radioactivity.

In its tests of 1,600 tests of fruits and vegetables, Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department checks for both pesticides and coloring.

The 200 meat and poultry samples undergo both microbiological and chemical tests.  Meat is subject to checks for preservatives, veterinary drug residues, and coloring.  About 200 samples of fish, shellfish, shrimp and prawns, crab, and squid are all subjected to similar testing.

Milk and milk products, about 500 samples, are tested for total bacterial counts and pathogens like Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus.  Chemical tests check for melamine, sweeteners, and coloring.

About 50 cereal and grain samples were also subjected to chemical and microbiological tests.  Among the other food commodities tested were mixed dishes, Dim Sum, beverages, sushi and sashimi, sugar and sweets, condiments and sauces, and eggs and egg products.

Whenever samples fail its tests, the Center for Food Safety traces the source of the item and requests vendors stop selling it and dispose of incriminated food.  Warning letters are issued and prosecution actions follow where there is sufficient evidence.

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