Fresh food imports under greater scrutiny

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 March, 2011, 12:00am

The Hong Kong government is stepping up monitoring of food imported from Japan, especially dairy products, fruit and vegetables, after the nuclear scare.

But Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said the Japanese government would not allow contaminated products to be sold and the city would not be greatly affected. 'Hong Kong does not depend on food from Japan, so it is not really a concern,' he said.

Japanese restaurant owners, however, are bracing for losses of up to 20 per cent because of disruptions to the supply chain caused by the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Timothy Lau Shing-fai, who operates the Kanizen crab restaurant and Katte Shabushabu, said at least one batch of crabs had already been affected. It was originally bound for Hong Kong from Tokyo on Saturday but the flight was cancelled, he said.

'In the short term, I don't think we'll get any more crabs from the Honshu region - we'll ask customers to switch to Hokkaido crabs instead,' he said.

Lau, who also imported Wagyu beef from Sendai, said he was still in contact with the supplier. However, he said he still had stock for one to two months.

Yiu Yat-chun of the Saikou Japanese Restaurant said its shellfish imports were most affected as Sendai and its neighbouring areas are known for its oysters, scallops and conches. He said he had been told by two suppliers that seafood would be in short supply.

'Business will definitely be affected, but it is hard to say by how much at this early stage,' he said.

In Jusco, Sogo and City'super supermarkets yesterday, shoppers were buying Japanese food as usual.

But one shopper, Gloria Poon, said she would stop buying Japanese fresh produce, as she was worried about radioactive contamination. 'I like Japanese grapes, but I think it's best to stop buying them at the moment.'

Another shopper said she wasn't worried. She was confident the governments of Japan and Hong Kong would be able to trace and recall any contaminated products.

A City'super spokeswoman said it was still trying to determine the effect of the earthquake on supply. She said the picture would be clearer today when it obtains shipment information.

The Centre for Food Safety said radioactive tests on 10 samples of fresh produce from Japan were satisfactory.