Radiation checks cover parallel imports of food

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 December, 2011, 12:00am


Checks for radioactivity in food cover parallel imports of infant formula, the health chief said after manufacturer Meiji launched a massive recall of milk formula in Japan.

Meiji recalled from shops 400,000 850mg cans of its Step milk formula two days ago after it found they contained small amounts of radioactive caesium. As Meiji has not endorsed a single agent to import its milk formula into Hong Kong, some people who buy its products have voiced concerns that parallel imports - goods imported without the agreement of a manufacturer or its authorised agent - would get past the government's safety checks.

In response, Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said yesterday that all imports - no matter who the importer was - were treated equally when it came to checks for radioactivity.

'There is no centralised importer [of this milk powder] in Hong Kong, so we may call all Meiji milk formula parallel imports. In general, we apply the same principle to them. If there are any affected goods on the market, we will test them immediately.'

The Centre for Food Safety confirmed yesterday after a meeting with local milk powder importers and distributors that the concerned batches had not been put on sale. It found a local milk powder importer had brought in a consignment of an affected batch, but the goods had not entered the market and would be returned to the manufacturer.

Centre workers inspected shops citywide and did not find any cans from the affected batches.

Since the nuclear crisis unfolded in Japan in March, the centre tested 138 samples of baby formula from Japan, including 49 samples of the Meiji brand. No radioactive substances had been detected, Chow said.

Most of the milk formula sampled was made in Tokyo, not nearby Saitama prefecture, where the caesium-tainted milk product originated, he said.

Meanwhile, the government will gazette tomorrow an amendment to ban harmful oestrogens - suspected of causing premature puberty in girls - in dried and condensed milk.