Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has recently found a prepackaged date sample from China to contain sulphur dioxide and sorbic acid, preservatives which are allowed to be used in food, however their names were not declared on the product’s food label, in breach of the food labelling regulations.
The product is in a 450g pack and distributed by Premier Food Ltd. The CFS has informed the distributor on the irregularity and it has initiated a recall on the affected batch of the product.
Sulphur dioxide is a commonly used preservative in a variety of foods including dried vegetables, dried fruits, pickled vegetables and salted fish products. Sulphur dioxide is water soluble, and most of it can be removed through washing and cooking. However, susceptible individuals who are allergic to this preservative may experience breathing difficulties, headaches and nausea after consumption.
The CFS spokesperson has reminded the food trade that the use of preservatives in food must comply with the Preservatives in Food Regulation (Cap. 132BD). Furthermore, the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) Regulations (Cap. 132W) require that prepackaged food shall be legibly marked or labelled with a list of ingredients. The regulations also state that for all prepackaged food for sale in Hong Kong containing sulphite in a concentration of 10 ppm or more, the functional class of the sulphite and its name shall be specified in the list of ingredients. Offenders are liable to a maximum fine of HK$50,000 (US$6,450) and 6 months’ imprisonment upon conviction.
Earlier on, CFS has also found a sample of prepackaged dried mangoes from the Philippines to contain lead, a metallic contaminant, at a level which may have contravened the Food Adulteration (Metallic Contamination) Regulations. The dried mangoes is in a 200g pack and branded as 7D. It is manufactured by FPD Food International, Inc.
According to the CFS spokesperson, the sample contained lead at 1.58 parts per million (ppm) which is considered dangerous or prejudicial to health. Long-term excessive dietary exposure to lead may cause anaemia and damage to the nervous system and kidneys. The affected retailer was instructed to stop sale, recall the affected batch and remove the products from the shelves immediately. Offenders are liable to similar fine and punishment as mentioned above.