For discussion on                                                ACFEH Paper 53

8 July 2004


Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene


Safety of Pre-packaged Food Imported from the Mainland



               This paper briefs Members on the existing work done by Government to ensure the food imported from the Mainland is fit and safe for human consumption.   



Food Safety in Hong Kong


2.          The food safety control framework in Hong Kong consists of several main components, including safety control of imported food, food surveillance, risk assessment, etc.  Certain high risk imported food like milk, milk products, frozen confections, game, meat and poultry are governed by the relevant subsidiary legislation of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132).  For example, the import of meat requires prior approval of the Food and Environment Hygiene Department (FEHD).  As far as our food surveillance programme is concerned, we have adopted a risk-based approach in accordance with international practice.  Under this approach, FEHD takes food samples at the import, wholesale and retail levels for microbiological and chemical testing.  FEHD will conduct investigation including requesting the retailers, wholesalers or importers concerned to provide information on the imported food products of which the wholesomeness is found to be problematic or under suspicion.  FEHD will then issue warnings or institute prosecution actions against the persons concerned.  Any person in breach of the relevant food safety legislative provisions shall be liable to a maximum penalty of HK$ 50,000 and an imprisonment of six months.  FEHD regularly reviews the control strategy, as well as the quantity and food types sampled under the food surveillance programme to meet changing needs.



Liaison Mechanism with the Mainland


3.          We have established a notification mechanism with the State General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People's Republic of China.  In case of food safety incidents affecting the food exported to Hong Kong, the relevant Mainland authorities will alert FEHD proactively for follow-up actions.  Regarding the recent reports of substandard food products found in the Mainland, FEHD has approached the relevant Mainland authorities for details and follow-up actions.  We have been informed so far that all the food products involved in the reported incidents do not affect food products exported to Hong Kong.  To ensure food safety, FEHD has also stepped up random inspection of similar food products available for sale in Hong Kong.



Special Survey on Mainland Food


4.          A special survey targeted at food imported from the Mainland was conducted in May 2004.  A total of 133 Mainland food items were collected from retail outlets for chemical testing for food additives and contaminants.  These food items included canned food, preserved food, instant food, snacks, beverages, sauces and condiments. 




5.          Analysis of the laboratory results indicated that seven food items contain chemicals exceeding the legal limits stipulated in the food law of Hong Kong.  The result is summarized as follows �V


Food Item

Chemical Found


Legal limit


Benzoic acid

530 ppm[1]

250 ppm


Benzoic acid

590 ppm

250 ppm

Soy Sauce

Benzoic acid

750 ppm

550 ppm

Preserved food

Benzoic acid

1,700 ppm


Preserved food


1.9 ppm

1 ppm

Instant food

Sorbic acid

660 ppm

Not permitted



1,400 ppb[2]

20 ppb


6.          Except for the aflatoxins, all the levels of chemicals detected in the food samples are unlikely to cause any adverse health effects. 


Follow up Action


7.          FEHD is following up the sources of the food concerned and will consider taking prosecution actions against the relevant parties.  Meanwhile, the retailers have been asked to cease the sale of the products concerned.  FEHD has also informed the relevant Mainland authorities of the findings and would keep vigilant on the surveillance of similar products. 



Way Forward


8.          FEHD will keep up the efforts in food safety control and continue to maintain close liaison with the Mainland authorities.  Information on food incidents and food safety will be disseminated through FEHD��s website, press conferences and distribution of pamphlets to enhance public awareness.  On the other hand, food traders are urged to ensure that all food for sale must comply with the relevant regulations in Hong Kong and should be fit for human consumption.  Vendors are reminded to obtain their food from reliable suppliers. 




Health, Welfare and Food Bureau

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

July 2004


[1] Parts per million

[2] Parts per billion