Hong Kong to review safety limit for cancer-causing chemical in mooncakes

Concerns raised as Hong Kong has a higher permissible level of aflatoxin in food than Macau, where mooncakes were recently recalled for exceeding safe limits

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 September, 2016, 8:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 September, 2016, 8:03am

The health minister has said the safety limit for a carcinogenic chemical found in mooncakes will be reviewed.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man was responding questions why the city had adopted a higher permitted level of aflatoxins in food than Macau, whose health authorities had banned mooncakes from Hong Kong-based Hang Heung Bakery for excessive levels of the carcinogenic substance.

Macau authorities said on Friday that testing showed a mooncake sample from Hang Heung exceeded the permitted level of aflatoxin B1.

We won’t pull our mooncakes yet, Hong Kong brand insists despite exceeding Macau carcinogen level

The aflatoxin B1 level from the sample was 7.48 micrograms. Macau regulations stipulate the substance should not exceed 5mcg for every kilogram of food, while according to the Harmful Substances in Food Regulations in Hong Kong, the maximum permitted concentration of aflatoxin in any food other than peanuts or peanut products is 15mcg per kilo.

Macau authorities had asked manufacturers and retailers to stop selling the products in question and recall them.

The minister said there was no standardised level for aflatoxin prescribed by the United Nation’s Codex Alimentarius Commission. It is up to individual governments to conduct their own risk assessments and come up with an appropriate level of control according to the eating habits of its citizens, Ko said.

“In a general direction, Hong Kong will adopt the international standards set by the commission and amend our laws accordingly. But of course there will be disparities in different locations. We will continuously review our standards,” he said.

Professor Chris Wong Kong-chu of Baptist University’s department of biology told media he did not understand why Hong Kong had been using a higher acceptable level and said the government had been passive and slow in renewing the safety limits for the chemical, which was last renewed 15 years ago.

Macau renewed the standard five months ago.