More food could fail Hong Kong metal contamination tests under proposed new rules
Health officials set more contamination standards, some of which are stricter than international guidelines
More seafood could be found with excessive levels of metals under a government proposal to strengthen food contamination standards.
The government is seeking views in a three-month public consultation launched on Tuesday on a plan to boost the number of categories for metallic contaminant food testing from 19 to 145.
The last review on metallic contamination in food was conducted in 1983.
Ninety of the maximum levels would become more stringent and six would be less stringent.
Levels for cadmium would be capped for more types of seafood, including lobsters, cuttle fish and squid.
A government source said they expected more seafood to fail food safety checks in future if the proposal is adopted.
“We have set cadmium standards for different types of seafood, but the Codex Alimentarius Commission doesn’t have such [detailed regulation],” the source said.
The international food code has set cadmium standards only for cephalopods such as cuttle fish and squid and some bivalve molluscs such as clams.
But the government hopes to go beyond the international standard by also capping cadmium levels in crustaceans like lobsters.
The source could not estimate how much more seafood would be found unsatisfactory in the future. According to official statistics, the percentage of food found with excessive levels of metallic contaminants ranged from 0.01 to 0.03 per cent of all tested samples from 2014 to last year.
The new proposal might also see more rice from mainland China coming to the city as the level of cadmium allowed in polished rice, including the white rice normally consumed in the city, would be increased from the current standard of 0.1 milligrams per kilogram to 0.2 mg/kg – the standard adopted by the mainland, Korea, Europe and Singapore.
But the proposed level would still be more stringent than the Codex standard, which is set at 0.4 mg/kg.
“If our standard is too tight, we would need to justify it ... and other members of the World Trade Organisation could challenge us,” the source said.
Seven extra metals, including copper and nickel, would be added for surveillance of natural mineral and bottled water, which are currently tested for another seven types of metal contaminant.