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Consumer protection in Hong Kong

Authorities to follow up on plasticiser levels found in Hong Kong cooking oil and Chinese white wine

Three types of pork samples, which also tested relatively higher in levels of the additive, came from the same supermarket chain

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 February, 2018, 11:05pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 February, 2018, 11:20pm

Health officials on Friday played down safety concerns but called for better packaging after finding levels of plasticiser in food samples that warranted follow-up measures.

They said there were no health issues if normal portions of the affected food were consumed.

The Centre for Food Safety collected 317 samples from about 100 types of food and tested for seven types of plasticisers. Some 98 per cent of samples contained at least one type of plasticiser.

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While levels of plasticisers in most of the tested food samples were low, the amount in two cooking oil samples and two Chinese white wine samples were found to be beyond the centre’s actionable levels – the point at which risk assessments and follow-up action would be taken by authorities.

A sample of minced pork also contained comparatively higher levels, although it was within the centre’s standard.

Plasticisers are additives widely used to soften plastics. While the substances are common in the environment and may be found in food, excessive amounts can affect liver and kidney functions, according to experiments conducted on animals.

“Fatty foods and those with high alcohol content are more likely to [dissolve] and migrate [plasticisers] from plastic products to food,” said Arthur Yau Tin-chung, a scientific officer from the centre.

Among other results of the study, a sample of peanut oil was found to contain a type of plasticiser named DEHP at a level of 3,500 micrograms per kilogram. The amount for an olive pomace oil sample was 3,300mcg/kg. Findings in both samples were more than double the centre’s action level at 1,500mcg/kg.

Two samples of Chinese white wine also contained 470 and 560mcg/kg of another type of plasticiser named DBP, higher than the centre’s level at 300mcg/kg.

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A sample of minced pork obtained from a supermarket chain was found to contain 7,900mcg/kg of a plasticiser named DINP. The figure was below the centre’s actionable standard but higher than that of other meat samples.

Yau said there were health concerns only if a person consumed more than 1kg of such pork daily, more than 400 millilitres of the tested oil types, or over 1 litre of the Chinese white wine, for a long period of time.

In a separate study, the centre collected 20 more samples of pre-packaged minced meat and identified two minced pork samples that also contained comparatively higher levels of plasticisers.

All three minced pork samples were from the same supermarket chain, which the centre did not name.

Henry Ng Chi-cheung, the centre’s principal medical officer in risk assessment and communication, said minced pork was more likely to absorb plasticisers owing to its higher fat content.

He said the centre had contacted the supermarket chain involved to explore how to enhance meat safety.

“The supermarket said they would not sell [the affected minced pork] at the moment and find ways to reduce plasticisers,” Ng said. “We hope there would be improvements in the type of materials that are in contact with food or used for packaging.”