Hutchison Whampoa

Health officers may inspect listed Guangdong food farms

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2006, 12:00am

Food safety officials will consider sending inspectors to visit registered vegetable farms in Guangdong and test their produce before it is exported to Hong Kong.

The possibility was raised after the discovery of vegetables containing excessive pesticide residues and confirmation that at least one unregistered farm had supplied local supermarkets.

'It will depend on the availability of manpower and the priority of risk assessment. If there is a need and depending on the situation, we will visit those farms and wholesale centres on the mainland,' a Food and Environmental Hygiene Department spokeswoman said.

On Monday, Greenpeace activists criticised the department for hiding the truth about Wellcome sourcing vegetables from an unregistered farm and two wholesale centres while assuring the public that vegetable supplies were safe.

They suspected vegetables from unknown sources had got into the city through illegal means or by being mixed up with vegetables from registered farms, which are subjected to more stringent controls. Under existing administrative arrangements with the mainland, vegetables from unregistered farms are allowed into Hong Kong unless they have been found to be unsafe.

The FEHD's Centre for Food Safety reiterated yesterday that measures such as collecting samples and investigating sources had been taken to safeguard public health. A spokesman said the supermarkets concerned were urged to purchase vegetables from registered farms on the mainland.

'Mainland authorities have also agreed to step up inspections on vegetables. FEHD officers will inspect the relevant documents regarding the farms and pesticides used at the Man Kam To Food Control Office,' he said.

Yesterday, the department also revealed ParknShop had imported vegetables, which were found by Greenpeace to have pesticide residues earlier, from a Guangzhou farm not included in the official registered farm list. However, ParknShop insisted it had seen proper hygiene documents and export licences obtained by the farm, though the farm was eventually not shown in the official list released to the public until recently.

The supermarket has already halted sourcing from the supplier, saying it was purely to ensure supply quality.