Hong Kong’s Center  for Food Safety (CFS), a unit of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has released the findings of its food safety report for December 2016 and surveillance information for 2016.

Only 13 of 9,800 food samples tested during December were found to be unsatisfactory, meaning the overall satisfactory rate for the month was 99.9 percent.

CFShongkong_406x250A spokesman for CFS reported about 1,100 food samples were collected for microbiological tests. Some 1,000 samples were taken for chemical tests and 7,700 — including about 7,300 taken from food imported from Japan — were collected to test radiation levels.

The microbiological tests covered pathogens and hygienic indicators, while the chemical tests were aimed at detecting pesticides, preservatives, metallic contaminants, coloring matters, veterinary drug residues and other contaminants.

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

The 13 unsatisfactory samples were: six vegetable and fruit samples with pesticide residues exceeding the legal limits; three aquatic product samples found to contain a preservative, sulphur dioxide, at levels exceeding the legal limit; a prepackaged preserved pomelo sample found to contain benzoic acid, a preservative, at a level exceeding the legal limit; two bottled milk samples detected with total bacterial counts exceeding the legal limit; and a common oriental clam sample detected with a veterinary drug, chloramphenicol.

The CFS has taken follow-up action on the unsatisfactory samples including informing the implicated vendors of 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, through Dec. 31, 2016, the CFS took more than 91,700 food samples at import, wholesale and retail levels for testing for pesticide residues. The overall unsatisfactory rate was less than 0.2 per cent.

The spokesman said excessive pesticide residues in food may arise from the trade not observing Good Agricultural Practices, e.g. using excessive pesticides and/or not allowing sufficient time for pesticides to dissipate before harvesting. The maximum residue limit (MRL) of pesticide residues in food is not a safety indicator. It is the maximum concentration of pesticide residues to be permitted in a food commodity under Good Agricultural Practices when applying pesticides. In this connection, consumption of food with pesticide residues higher than the MRL will not necessarily lead to any adverse health effects.

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

Summary of food surveillance program for 2016
Concluding the food surveillance program for 2016, the spokesman said that apart from routine food surveillance, the CFS conducted a number of targeted as well as seasonal and popular food surveillance projects.

The Center for Food Safety has tested for radiation levels in Japanese food since the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, 150 miles northeast of Tokyo. An earthquake and tsunami damaged the power plant’s cooling system resulting in explosions and a meltdown.

“In addition to 73,700 samples of imported Japanese food taken for testing of radiation level in response to the Fukushima nuclear power plant incident in Japan, about 65,500 samples were tested by the CFS last year. The overall satisfactory rate was 99.8 per cent, which was comparable to the results in recent years. This indicates that food safety has been maintained at a high standard in Hong Kong,” he said.

“The exceedances or breaches for most of the unsatisfactory samples were not serious and would not pose adverse health effects to the general public. For individual food items with unsatisfactory test results, the CFS has taken prompt and effective risk management action to safeguard public health,” he added.

He added that in planning the food surveillance program, the CFS would always take into consideration a number of factors such as the food consumption level and the risk of the food concerned in deciding the number of samples to be tested, the frequency of sampling as well as the testing parameters. In addition, the CFS would also adjust its food surveillance programs and strengthen relevant testing with regard to local and overseas food incidents as well as past surveillance data, in particular breaches of regulatory requirements that occurred more frequently, so as to safeguard food safety in Hong Kong.

The Government of Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Unit of the People’s Republic of China.

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