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Radioactive Oatmeal Found in Hong Kong Supermarket

Low-level radioactivity was discovered in a packaged oats product from Japan on sale at a retail outlet in Hong Kong, a spokesman for the Center for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said Wednesday.

After testing a sample from the package, the Hong Kong-based CFS said radioactivity levels were low enough that there is no health concern for anyone consuming the oatmeal.

“The oats sample was collected from a local supermarket for radiation testing under the regular food surveillance program, the CFS spokesman said.  “The test result showed that a low level of the radioactive substance, Caesium-137 (Cs-137), was detected at 7 Bq/kg.”

The CFS spokesman said the radioactivity level is far below the 1,000 Bq/kg safety guideline established by the international Codex Alimentarius Commission.

CFS did not order a recall of the product because the dietary exposure shows the internal dose of Cs-137 even at high consumption, figured at 90 grams per day, would not be enough to result in adverse health effects.

Hong Kong, one of two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China (the other being Macau), has been conducting daily tests for radioactivity of food from Japan since March 12, 2011.

One day before that, a powerful 9.0 earthquake struck Japan, causing a devastating tidal wave and leading to the melt down of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

With the farmland environment around the Daiichi plant poisoned with radioactivity, Hong Kong CFS has conducted nearly 91,000 tests of food imported from Japan to weed out any that are radioactive.

Just 171 Japanese food samples have been found to be radioactive by the Hong Kong testing program. With the packaged oats, high consumption would result in a radiation dose lower than one might receive during a chest X-ray.

Hong Kong tests for Iodine-131, Caesium-134 and Caesium-137. It has detected these elements in fruits and vegetables, meat and aquatic products, and various beverages and cereals.

In most cases, the findings do not exceed Codex levels or the importer for disposal surrendered the product.

CFS said it will “review and adjust”  the monitoring  of food from Japan based on “recommendations from international authorities to safeguard food safety.”

The “hot” packaged oats found at the Hong Kong supermarket were Nihonshokuukin Premium Oatmeal, produced by Nippon Food Manufacturer in Hokkaido, Japan.  The 300 gram package has a best before date of Nov. 16, 2012.

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