The Government yesterday came under fire for inadequate food surveillance following the suspension of sales of 16 snack foods containing a banned sweetener. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has withdrawn products including noodles, snacks and a sugar substitute containing the chemical stevioside. Yesterday, more than 1,300 boxes of the banned products were taken off shelves. However, the South China Morning Post found some products containing the sweetener, which is thought to cause cancer, were still being sold. The Consumer Council's research and surveys division head, Connie Lau Yin-hing, said the law gave food traders and agents the option to specify the additive or label it just as an 'artificial sweetener'. 'Way back in 1990 we proposed that the food-labelling regulations should be amended to ensure that adequate and transparent information about these substances be given on the food product,' she said. Legislator Fred Li Wah-ming, chairman of the Legco panel on food safety and environmental hygiene said: 'We wonder why the department's food surveillance is not really successful.' The Assistant Director of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, Gloria Tam Lai-fan, said last night the authorities would consider demanding manufacturers list the names of chemical substances contained in food products. She said stevioside had failed to pass stringent toxicology tests, including the one adopted by the World Health Organisation. But James Tadashi Osugi, founding member of the Hong Kong Stevia Association, yesterday dismissed the accusations and stressed that stevioside was a safe food sweetener approved in many countries. 'Stevioside is not a synthesised chemical, it's good for humans and is 100 per cent natural,' he said. Another founding member of the association, Max Ho Man-wang, said there was no proof that stevioside caused cancer. A spokeswoman for ParknShop said: 'We are in the process of reviewing the products, especially those from the mainland, but it takes time. We will recall those products that contain stevioside immediately.' Ocean Bright, the Hong Kong supplier of QQ Mark Sunflower Seeds, among the products withdrawn from sale, said the product did not contain the chemical. It said the mainland manufacturer had not used stevioside for two years but continued using the old packaging. Ocean Bright said it would recall the product and change the labels. Macau Health Services Bureau yesterday followed Hong Kong's lead and advised wholesalers and retailers to temporarily suspend the sale of products containing the chemical.