US salmonella scare could affect 2 million eggs in Hong Kong as recall hits city
Preliminary investigations show at least 2 million eggs have been imported, but it is unclear how many have been consumed
Imports of poultry eggs from Rose Acre Farms in the United States have been suspended with immediate effect, as they might be contaminated with salmonella, Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety (CFS) said on Tuesday night.
It acted after the US Food and Drug Administration recalled more than 200 million eggs distributed from the supplier’s Hyde County farm in North Carolina, reportedly the largest recall of eggs in the country since 2010.
The eggs were sent to different states and over 20 cases of illness have been reported.
The CFS statement did not say how many potentially contaminated eggs were in Hong Kong, or where and under what brand they were sold in the city.
But its preliminary investigations found that five importers and retailers had already brought in about 6,000 cartons in different batches, which would add up to more than 2 million eggs, as each carton usually has 360.
It stressed that salmonella could not survive under high temperatures and the bacteria would die if the eggs were thoroughly cooked.
Only one importer, Maxim’s Caterers, still had not used its supply and would dispose of the eggs, the CFS statement said.
The other four companies – General Hero, Shun Hing Hoo, Tai Cheong Eggs Company, and Luen Tai Hong – were in the process of recalling the eggs.
Inquiries about the recall can be made to General Hero at 2381 9138, Shun Hing Hoo at 2543 4655, Tai Cheong Eggs Company at 2546 1834 and Luen Tai Hong at 2857 9389 during office hours, the statement said.
Eggs from the US make up only a quarter of the 5 million Hongkongers consume each day, so the recall from one producer would not affect the operations of restaurants or bakeries, food traders said.
Lee Kwong-lam of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Provisions, Wine and Spirit Dealers’ Association said there would be no effect on egg prices because it would be easy to get supplies from elsewhere.
Young Kam-yim of Luen Tai Hong estimated the affected batches might have arrived in February. If so, most of them would already have been eaten, the delegate of the Hong Kong Egg Merchants Association said.
The CFS said the salmonella bacteria could cause fever and gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
“The effects on infants, young children, the elderly and persons with a weak immune system could be more severe and sometimes may even lead to death.”
The spokesman advised consumers, particularly the elderly, infants and pregnant women, to avoid eating raw or inadequately cooked eggs and egg products. It said it had contacted the US authorities and would follow on up on the matter.
Hong Kong was hit by a similar scare last year, when in August, the European Commission revealed that insecticide-tainted eggs from Dutch farms could be found here and in 15 European Union states and Switzerland.
European eggs then made up 20 per cent of Hong Kong’s supply but their appeal for upper-middle class residents faded after the scandal, according to several sellers in the city.