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Food safety report for released

2 March 2009 1,146 views No Comment

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) today (March 2) released its Food Safety Report for January 2009, which covered food surveillance results for the month.

  About 4,600 food samples were tested in January. Among them, about 3,800 were taken for chemical tests and about 700 for microbiological tests. The overall satisfactory rate was 98.9%, with 51 samples found unsatisfactory.

  While microbiological tests cover pathogens and viruses, chemical tests are conducted to detect sweeteners, preservatives, metallic contamination, colouring matters, veterinary drug residues, pesticides and melamine.

  Samples tested included vegetables, fruits and their products; meat, poultry and their products; aquatic products; milk, milk products and frozen confections; and cereals, grains and their products.

Vegetables, fruits and products
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  About 1,900 samples of vegetables, fruit and their products were taken for microbiological and chemical tests. Apart from the four unsatisfactory samples of Lunar New Year food announced earlier, there were two unsatisfactory samples.

  On food additives, a pickled plum sample was found to contain the preservative sulphur dioxide at a level of 4,000ppm, exceeding the legal limit of 100ppm. A red date sample was detected with the same preservative at a level of 2,400ppm, exceeding the legal limit of 2,000ppm.

  For pesticides, colouring matters, metallic contamination and micro-organisms, all samples were satisfactory.

Meat, poultry and products
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  The CFS collected about 700 samples of meat, poultry and their products for microbiological and chemical tests. Apart from the unsatisfactory samples of 20 fresh beef and one preserved Chinese sausage announced earlier, there were 18 unsatisfactory samples.

  Regarding the tests for food additives, 15 fresh beef samples were found to contain sulphur dioxide, which is not permitted to be used in fresh meat, at levels between 20ppm and 3,800ppm. Two samples of smoked pork sausage and one sample of pork loin ham were found to contain the preservative sorbic acid, which is not allowed to be used in those types of food, at levels from 1,200ppm to 1,500ppm.

  Concerning tests on colouring matters, apart from the unsatisfactory sample of preserved Chinese sausage mentioned above and announced earlier, all the other samples were satisfactory.

  All samples passed tests for pathogens and veterinary drug residues.

Aquatic products
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  About 300 samples (including freshwater fish, seawater fish and shellfish) were analysed for micro-organisms, chemicals and toxins and two were found to be unsatisfactory.

  In the tests for metallic contamination, a sample of chilled orange roughy fillet was found to contain mercury at a level of 0.94ppm, exceeding the legal limit of 0.5ppm. A sample of slipper lobster had cadmium at a level of 3.4ppm, exceeding the legal limit of 2ppm.

  All samples tested for veterinary drug residues, preservatives, pathogens and biotoxins were satisfactory.

Milk, milk products and frozen confections
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  The CFS took about 500 samples of milk, milk products and frozen confections for microbiological and chemical analyses. All the test results for pathogens were satisfactory.

  A milk beverage sample was found to contain a colony count of more than 10, exceeding the legal limit of less than 10.

Cereals, grains and products
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  About 100 samples were tested for micro-organisms and chemicals; all were satisfactory.

Other food commodities
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  About 1,000 samples including snacks, dim sum, sushi, sashimi, condiments and sauces were also tested. Apart from an unsatisfactory sample of Lunar New Year food, which was announced earlier, there were two unsatisfactory samples.

  One sample of imitated crab meat sushi was found to contain the pathogen Staphylococcus aureus at a level of 86,000 per gramme. One root beer sample was found to contain the preservative benzoic acid at a level of 410ppm, exceeding the legal limit of 160ppm.

Conclusion
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  ”From 2009 onwards, Food Safety Reports will be issued monthly instead of bimonthly as in the past, so that members of the public can obtain the latest food safety information in a timely manner. Of the food sample results announced today, most of the exceedances or breaches were not serious and would not pose immediate health risks upon normal consumption,” a CFS spokesman said.

  “Regarding the food sample detected with pathogens, the breaches could be indications of unsatisfactory hygiene conditions during food processing and production. The trade should always follow the ‘5 Keys to Food Safety’ during food preparation to minimise the risk of food-borne diseases.”

  On the fish sample detected with excessive mercury, the spokesman advised consumers to have moderate consumption of fish as it contains many essential nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and high quality proteins.  People should maintain a balanced diet and eat a variety of fish. When choosing fish for food, children, pregnant women and women planning for pregnancy should avoid eating large predatory fish.

  The rest of the unsatisfactory samples were mainly related to the use of excessive or non-permitted food additives. The spokesman urged the food trade to use only permitted food additives, follow good manufacturing practice and comply with legal requirements.

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

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