Watch what you eat2017.03.28
Since we were young , we have been told to maintain a balanced diet according to the food pyramid. But does it guarantee our health? Sadly, some food safety problems are not easy to track and avoid. Poultry and meat can be contaminated whereas the pesticide residue in vegetables can harm us in the long-run.
HONG Kong lacks arable land and local farmers, so 90 percent of its food is imported from mainland China and other countries. Globalisation and regional cooperation have made imports and exports between countries more efficient. But at the same time, it makes any local problem become a global one, particularly those on food safety, which not only harms humans, but many other creatures that feed on one another in the food chain.
For example, if seawater is polluted by heavy metals, the fish and their marine predators will also get contaminated. Then when we eat the seafood, the heavy metals they accumulated will pass to us. Scientists even warn that toxic metals pass to the new-born babies if mothers consume a large quantity of such fish.
Though Hong Kong has set up the Centre for Food Safety (CFS 食物安全中心) – a part of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (食物環境衛生署) – to strictly monitor whether the food in market meets safety standards, tests from random samplings cannot safeguard every bite we eat. The following are some food safety issues that Hong Kong has faced in recent decades.
Heavy metal rice
RICE is the major staple of many Asian countries. While two-thirds of the rice in our city is from Thailand (泰國), we still import over 10 percent from the mainland. In 2011, Chinese media revealed that over 10 percent of the samples from various provinces contained high levels of cadmium (鎘). This heavy metal can lead to bone pain and weaker bones if we eat too much of it. Though there was no proof that imported mainland rice contained excessive amounts of cadmium, we can always buy rice from accredited brands. The national standards state that in every kilogram of rice, there should be at most 0.2 milligrams of cadmium. In Hong Kong, the cap is 0.1 mg per kg.
IN 2014, a Taiwanese (台灣的) company was found to produce substandard lard made from recycled waste oils and lard for animal feeds. In Hong Kong, Maxim’s Cakes had used the lard to make pineapple buns. Also, two imported Taiwanese products used the substandard lard. The government ordered the affected shops to take the products off the shelves and stop selling them. Though such lard products may have harmful substances, the risk in Hong Kong was not considered to be high.
APART from the recent ban on the Brazilian (巴西的) rottenmeat, Hong Kong has since January banned the import of poultry meat and products from Uganda (烏干達), and some areas in Japan (日本), India (印度) and Germany (德國). It was because of the outbreaks of the H5N8 avian flu in these regions. According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, the virus is highly pathogenic. Though it is safe to eat chicken and other poultry if cooked properly, for the sake of public health and to avoid public panic, the CFS has still prohibited imports from the affected regions. Last year before the ban, Hong Kong had imported more than 45 million poultry eggs from Japan and more than 9,300 tonnes of frozen poultry meat from Germany. No poultry products have been imported from Uganda and India.
EARLIER this month, the CFS found out that a Chinese white cabbage sample had too much pesticide residue. The measured amount, 3.3 parts per million (ppm), was 2.75 times the legal limit of 1.2 ppm. It can be lethal for human consumption. Since 2014, the CFS has taken nearly 100,000 food samples of vegetables and fruits to test for pesticide residues, and the rate of unsatisfactory food recorded is less than 0.2 percent. To avoid ingesting too much pesticide residues, we should rinse vegetable thoroughly under running water several times, and soak them in water for an hour. Removing the outer leaves of vegetables and the peel of fruits is also advisable.