Hutchison Whampoa

Greenpeace warns of tainted fruit imports

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2006, 12:00am

City urged to plug safety loopholes after banned pesticides detected in Guangzhou

Food safety officials have been urged to plug loopholes in fruit imports from the mainland after green activists found banned pesticides in tangerines, strawberries and grapes on sale at supermarket chains in Guangzhou.

Greenpeace activists claimed imported fruit was not inspected or monitored at border checkpoints.

The environmental group took 85 samples from three supermarket chains in Guangzhou from November 25 last year to April 12 for testing in a German laboratory for pesticides.

The samples included 15 vegetable species, including pak choi, choi sum, kale and french beans, and three fruit species: tangerine, strawberry and kyofung grapes. All were collected at Carrefour, CR Vanguard and ParknShop outlets across the border.

The tests found 25 per cent had banned pesticide residues, such as DDT, which can affect the nervous system. About 48 per cent and 14 per cent carried pesticide residues above the European Union and Chinese standards respectively.

A tangerine sample from a Vanguard outlet contained a banned pesticide 40 times above the Chinese standard, while a strawberry sample collected from a ParknShop outlet also contained excessive methamidophos, which can lead to respiratory paralysis or death at high levels.

The results were jointly announced in Hong Kong and Guangzhou yesterday, with activists protesting outside the Centre for Food Safety office in Admiralty.

Greenpeace campaigner Apple Chow Yuen-ping said the fruit tested were from a high-risk category as their skin was usually consumed as well. But she said they were not sampled for testing at the border.

'Fruit imported from the mainland, unlike vegetable produce, does not have to pass through the Man Kam To Food Safety Office. There exists no comprehensive monitoring on fruit produce in the territory,' she said.

Ms Chow said Greenpeace believed toxic produce was being smuggled into the city illegally.

Asked whether ParknShop in Hong Kong imported the same fruit sold in Guangzhou, a spokeswoman said it sourced produce independently from its sister chain on the mainland.

Another spokeswoman for ParknShop China said that as of yesterday, it had strengthened its pesticide-surveillance system at every store by adopting a quick test used by the Hong Kong government.

A Centre for Food Safety spokesman said yesterday the centre had taken about 480 fruit samples over the past three years at import, wholesale and retail levels and only one papaya sample in 2003 was found to contain pesticide residues above safe levels.