Prepackaged dates found with excessive sulphur dioxide and undeclared additive, Centre for Food Safety issues warning


22nd September 2023 – (Hong Kong) The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has recently discovered a sample of prepackaged dates that exceeds the legal limit of sulphur dioxide, a commonly used preservative. Additionally, the name of the additive was not declared on the food label. As a result, the CFS has advised the public to refrain from consuming the affected batch of the product, while urging the trade to immediately halt its use or sale if they possess it.

The CFS obtained the sample from a retail outlet in Tsim Sha Tsui during a follow-up investigation. Analysis revealed that the sample contained 230 parts per million (ppm) of sulphur dioxide, surpassing the legal limit of 100 ppm. Furthermore, the food label failed to disclose the presence of the additive, according to a spokesman for the CFS.

Upon discovering the irregularities, the CFS promptly informed the concerned vendor and instructed them to cease the sale and remove the affected batch from shelves. In compliance with the CFS’s instructions, the distributor associated with the product has initiated a recall. For any inquiries regarding the recall, members of the public can contact the distributor’s hotline at 2742 9811 during office hours.

Sulphur dioxide is a commonly used preservative in various food products, including dried vegetables, dried fruits, pickled vegetables, and salted fish. Although it is water soluble and can be eliminated to a significant extent through washing and cooking, individuals with allergies to this preservative may experience respiratory difficulties, headaches, and nausea after consumption.

The spokesman for the CFS reminded the food trade that the use of preservatives in food must adhere to the Preservatives in Food Regulation (Cap. 132BD). Additionally, the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) Regulations (Cap. 132W) stipulate that all prepackaged food sold in Hong Kong, containing sulphite at a concentration of 10 ppm or higher, must specify the functional class and name of the sulphite in the list of ingredients. Violators of these regulations may face a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for up to six months upon conviction.

The CFS will continue to monitor the situation, alert the trade regarding the issue, and take appropriate action. An ongoing investigation is being conducted to further assess the matter.

The CFS advises consumers who have purchased the affected batch of prepackaged dates to refrain from consuming them and to contact the distributor for further instructions. It is crucial to prioritize food safety and adhere to regulations to protect public health.