Centre for Food Safety identifies sulphur dioxide in red dates, issues recall due to label non-compliance

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File photo.

8th December 2023 – (Hong Kong) The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) under the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department released a statement yesterday revealing that a sample of prepackaged red dates was discovered to contain sulphur dioxide, a preservative, surpassing the legal limit, with the functional class and name of the additive not declared on the food label. Additionally, another sample of prepackaged dates was found to contain sulphur dioxide, with the functional class and name of the additive also not declared on the food label. Consequently, the CFS has advised the public against consuming the affected batches of the products. Furthermore, the trade is urged to cease using or selling the affected batches immediately.

Detailed product information is as follows:

Product name: SSJ Sliced Red Date
Brand: SHAN SHAU JOK
Place of origin: China
Net weight: 500 grams
Best-before date: 30th September, 2024
Distributor: Yue Sang Trading Limited
Hotline: 2392 6288

Product name: Dates
Brand: (Not available in English)
Place of origin: China
Net weight: 605 grams
Best-before date: 31st October, 2024
Packer: Cross International Limited
Hotline: 2815 5872

The CFS conducted testing under its routine Food Surveillance Programme, obtaining the red date and date samples from an online vendor and a retail outlet in Yuen Long, respectively. The test results revealed that the red date sample contained sulphur dioxide at a level of 1,400 parts per million, exceeding the legal limit of 1,000 ppm under the Preservatives in Food Regulation (Cap. 132BD). Moreover, the functional class and name of the additive were not declared on the food label. As for the other date sample, while the level of sulphur dioxide detected was below the statutory maximum permitted level, the functional class and the name of the additive were not declared on the food label of the sample, as stated by a CFS spokesman.

In response to these findings, the CFS promptly informed the vendors and the distributor/packer concerned of the irregularities, directing them to halt sales and remove the affected batches from shelves. Subsequently, the distributor/packer initiated recalls in adherence to the CFS’s instructions. Enquiries about the recalls can be addressed by contacting the respective hotlines during office hours.

The CFS spokesperson emphasized that the use of preservatives in food must comply with the Preservatives in Food Regulation (Cap. 132BD). Furthermore, the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) Regulations (Cap. 132W) stipulate that for all prepackaged food for sale in Hong Kong containing sulphite in a concentration of 10 ppm or more, the functional class of the sulphite and its name must be specified in the list of ingredients. Offenders are subject to a maximum fine of $50,000 and six months’ imprisonment upon conviction.