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Only 4 samples fail food safety tests during March in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Center for Food Safety (CFS) Monday released the findings of its food safety report for March. The results of about 12,000 food samples tested were satisfactory except for four samples. The overall satisfaction rate was 99.9 percent.

CFS is a unit of Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

A CFS spokesman said about 1,300 food samples were collected for microbiological tests, some 3,200 samples were taken for chemical tests and the remaining 7,500 (including about 7,100 taken from food imported from Japan) were collected to test radiation levels.

The microbiological tests covered pathogens and hygienic indicators, while the chemical tests included pesticides, preservatives, metallic contaminants, coloring matters, veterinary drug residues and others.

The samples comprised about 3,600 samples of vegetables and fruit and their products; 700 samples of meat and poultry and their products; 1,600 samples of aquatic and related products; 800 samples of milk, milk products and frozen confections; 800 samples of cereals, grains and their products; and 4,500 samples of other food commodities (including beverages, bakery products and snacks).

The four unsatisfactory samples comprised two vegetable samples detected with pesticide residues exceeding the legal limits; a preserved mustard sample detected with excessive cadmium; and a cut fruit sample found to contain Salmonella.

The CFS has taken follow-up action on the unsatisfactory samples, including informing the vendors about the test results, instructing them to stop selling the affected food items and tracing the sources of the food items in question.

Since the Pesticide Residues in Food Regulation (Cap 132CM) came into effect on August 1, 2014, as of March 31 this year, the CFS has taken over 139,400 food samples at the import, wholesale and retail levels for testing for pesticide residues. The overall unsatisfactory rate is less than 0.2 percent.

The spokesman added that excessive pesticide residues in food may arise from the trade not observing Good Agricultural Practice, e.g. using excessive pesticides and/or not allowing sufficient time for pesticides to decompose before harvesting. The maximum residue limits (MRLs) of pesticide residues in food set in the Regulation are not safety indicators. They are the maximum concentrations of pesticide residues to be permitted in a food commodity under Good Agricultural Practice when applying pesticides. In this connection, consumption of food with pesticide residues higher than the MRLs will not necessarily lead to any adverse health effects.

The spokesman also reminded the food trade to ensure that food for sale is fit for human consumption and meets legal requirements. Consumers should patronize reliable shops when buying food and maintain a balanced diet to minimize food risks.

With almost 7.5 million people, the former British colony of Hong Kong is today an autonomous territory of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It is a major port and global financial hub in southeastern China.

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