Prepackaged bamboo shoot sample in breach of food labelling regulation


     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced today (December 19) that a sample of prepackaged bamboo shoot was found to contain sulphur dioxide, a preservative which is allowed to be used in certain foods, but the functional class and the name of the additive were not declared on the food label. Members of the public should not consume the affected batch of the product. The trade should also stop using or selling the affected batch of the product immediately if they possess it.

     Product details are as follows:

Product name: Square Bamboo Shoot
Net weight: 500 grams
Place of origin: China
Distributor: (Not available in English)
Best-before date: September 1, 2023

     "The CFS collected the above-mentioned bamboo shoot sample from an online shop for testing under its routine Food Surveillance Programme. The test result showed that the sample contained sulphur dioxide. Although the sulphur dioxide level is below the maximum permitted level under the Preservatives in Food Regulation (Cap. 132BD), the functional class and name of the additive were not declared on the food label," a CFS spokesman said.

     "The CFS has informed the vendor concerned of the irregularity and instructed it to stop sales and remove from shelves the affected batch of the product. According to the CFS's instructions, the vendor concerned has initiated a recall on the affected batch of the product. Members of the public may call its hotline at 9034 5978 during office hours for enquiries about the recall of the product concerned," the spokesman added.

     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 spokesman 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 parts per million 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 $50,000 and six months' imprisonment upon conviction.

     The CFS will alert the trade, continue to follow up on the incident and take appropriate action. An investigation is ongoing.

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