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Targeted food preservatives in meat, meat and cheese monitoring results

30 November 2009 2,816 views No Comment

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) today (November 30) announced the results of a recently conducted targeted food surveillance project on the use of the preservatives nitrate and nitrite in meat, meat products and cheese. One of the 500 samples collected was found unsatisfactory. Under the Preservatives in Food Regulations, no preservatives, including nitrate and nitrite, are allowed to be added into fresh, chilled or frozen meat.

However, uncooked pickled meat, cheese (other than cheddar or Cheshire type cheese or soft cheese) may contain preservatives within the legal limits. “The CFS collected 500 samples of meat, meat products and cheese for tests from August to September 2009. No nitrate or nitrite was found in any of the 108 fresh, chilled and frozen meat and cheese samples.

“The remaining 392 food samples, including bacon, ham, hamburger, preserved meat, Chinese preserved sausage, dim sum, meat ball, canned meat, ‘siu mei’ and ‘lo mei’, did not contain nitrate exceeding the legal limit. “One sample of white cabbage and pork dumpling was found to contain nitrite at a level of 370ppm, exceeding the legal limit of 200ppm.” The maximum penalty for offenders is a fine of $50,000 and six months’ imprisonment. Nitrate and nitrite are preservatives commonly used in meat curing as they can inhibit the growth of bacteria.

Consumption of the concerned product is unlikely to cause acute health effects.However, some people such as those with G6PD deficiency may be more sensitive to nitrite and it may affect the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells, causing methaemoglobinaemia. Long term excessive intake of nitrite may increase the risk of cancer. The spokesman reminded the public to maintain a balanced diet in order to avoid excessive exposure to food additives from a small range of foods.

They should also buy meat, meat products and cheese from reliable shops. He also reminded the food trade to use preservatives appropriately, follow good manufacturing practice and comply with legal requirements. “Regarding the unsatisfactory sample, the CFS has issued warning letters to the retailer and requested the manufacturer to follow up.The CFS has also taken a follow-up sample for testing and the result was satisfactory,” he said.

Source: HKSAR Government

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