Hong Kong Concerned with Beef Tampering

HONG KONG - The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) in Hong Kong collected beef samples from 22 retail outlets to test whether sulphur dioxide had been added. Results show that 10 of the 26 samples contained sulphur dioxide, at levels ranging from 17 parts per million (ppm)to 5,500 ppm.
calendar icon 4 December 2008
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"Under the Preservatives in Food Regulation, sulphur dioxide is a permitted preservative in foods such as preserved fruits and fruit juices, but it should not be added to fresh, chilled or frozen meat. Offenders are liable to a maximum fine of $50,000 and six months' imprisonment.

"Sulphur dioxide is of low toxicity and commonly used in the food manufacturing industry as a preservative in a variety of foods including preserved fruits and fruit juices. It is water soluble and most of it can be removed through washing and cooking. However, people who are allergic to the preservative may experience respiratory discomfort, headaches and nausea.

"Regarding the unsatisfactory samples, the FEHD would take out prosecution against the retailers concerned. To safeguard food safety, we will continue to closely monitor the situation, including stepping up surprise checks on retail outlets and sample testing," an FEHD spokesman said.

In July and September, the department's Centre for Food Safety also conducted a targeted surveillance to assess the use of sulphur dioxide in meat. Of some 290 pork and beef samples taken, 15 beef samples were found to contain sulphur dioxide. The Centre has taken out prosecution against two retailers whose samples were found unsatisfactory.

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