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HK Food Surveillance Results Satisfactory Rate over 99%
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The Center for Food Safety (CFS) of Hong Kong Thursday released its first Food Safety Report for 2007 with an overall satisfactory rate over 99 percent.

Some 7,100 food samples were collected in a food surveillance taken place in January and February, for microbiological and chemical tests, said Assistant Director (Food Surveillance and Control) of the CFS Constance Chan when announcing the results at a press conference on Thursday.

"The overall satisfactory rate is 99.6 percent, with only 28 samples failing the tests," Chan said food samples tested included vegetables, fruits and products, poultry and products, aquatic products, milk, milk products and frozen confections, cereals, grains and products.

Of the some 3,200 vegetable tested, apart from nine unsatisfactory dried/preserved vegetable and fruit samples announced earlier in the surveillance report on Lunar New Year foods, there were four unsatisfactory samples which include spring onion sample found to contain methamidophos and green tea samples contain coloring matters Brilliant blue FCF and tartrazine.

For the some 500 samples of meat, poultry and their products, a fresh beef sample was found to contain trace amounts of sulphur dioxide and a sample of poultry product was found to contain benzoic acid, where both are slightly exceeding the permitted level.

About 400 aquatic products samples including freshwater fish, seawater fish, shrimps and shellfish were analyzed for micro-organisms and chemicals. Three turbot fish samples which were found to contain trace amounts of nitro furans in another survey announced earlier, results for other samples were all satisfactory.

Concerning tests on heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic and cadmium, only a shrimp sample was found to contain arsenic exceeding the permitted level.

All test results of milk, milk products and frozen confections were satisfactory. For cereals, grains and products, a flat noodle sample was found containing preservative benzoic acid.

Besides, samples including snacks, dim sum, condiments and sauces categorized as other food commodities were also tested. There were eight unsatisfactory samples, including a dumpling with pathogen Salmonella, a curry paste with preservative sorbic acid and a snack product with non-permitted sweetener stevioside.

"Concerning food samples tested in January and February, the exceedances or breaches were not serious and would not pose immediate health risks," Chan said.

"We observe that the unsatisfactory samples were mainly related to the use of excessive or non-permitted food additives such as preservatives, coloring matters or sweeteners," she said.

Regarding the unsatisfactory samples, the CFS has taken follow-up actions, including tracing the source of food in question, asking concerned retailers to stop selling those food items, taking follow-up samples and issuing warning letters. If there is sufficient evidence, prosecution action will also be taken.

To bolster food safety, Chan said a comprehensive food safety law is being prepared to gradually regulate foods that have a higher food safety risk or are of wide public concern, with priority given to farmed aquatic produce, vegetables and fruit.

Noting new legislative proposals will be put forward for public discussion in the next legislative session, Chan said enforcement will be enhanced along with inspections at the retail and wholesale levels. To tie in with the new law, the center will explore the feasibility of expanding facilities at its Man Kam To Food Laboratory in the New Territories of the city.

(Xinhua News Agency April 13, 2007)

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