Urgency for food safety legislation as toxic fruits and vegetables found repeatedly

Press release - 2007-01-23
Fruit samples were found for the first time by Greenpeace to contain methamidophos, a banned pesticide of high toxicity, including on popularly consumed strawberry and tangerines. One sample was even found contaminated by 13 types of pesticide. Greenpeace strongly condemns the repeated omission of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), and urges the Government to announce a timetable for food safety legislation in order to stop pesticide contaminated fruit and vegetable from coming to Hong Kong.

Greenpeace releases the latest testing result of pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables today and contaminated produce were dumped in front of the Center for Food Safety (CFS) to accuse their incompetence in preventing the influx of toxic fruits and vegetables to Hong Kong.

10 samples of fruit and vegetable were collected by Greenpeace over 6 spots in Hong Kong on Jan 4 2007. Among the 5 mainland China-imported fruit samples, 4 were confirmed to be contaminated by highly toxic pesticide such as methamidophos, a kind banned pesticide. One tangerine sample even contains 13 kinds of pesticide.

"We have been raising time and again the urgency of the problem since last year. Regrettably, the SAR Government simply turns a blind eye to it and refuse to implement any substantial policy to stop the influx of toxic fruits. So long as the Government does not announce any timetable for food safety legislation, Hong Kong citizens have to suffer the risk continuously!" Greenpeace Assistant Campaigner Chow Yuen-ping said.

Greenpeace exposed pesticide contaminated vegetables in Hong Kong supermarkets last April and subsequently found again in Guangzhou that fruits and vegetables contained illegal pesticide in June. Considering mainland fruit is also supplied to Hong Kong, Greenpeace has kept warning that the SAR had to legislate on food safety to prevent the possible influx of pesticide contaminated produce. The latest testing results verifies that food safety in Hong Kong has not yet improved.

Meanwhile, a set of testing results released by the CFS on December 28 last year showed that the 350 fresh fruit samples taken were satisfactory, in terms of pesticide residue level and heavy metal content. Yet compared to the failure of merely 5 samples taken in Hong Kong by Greenpeace, the discrepancy reasonably calls the effectiveness of CFS into question.

Chow Yuen-ping remarked, "It is already beyond questionable doubt that toxic fruit is  found in Hong Kong. We don't understand why the 350 samples all passed unanimously under the CFS."

In fact, inspection and quarantine authority in Mainland China had reported strawberry with highly toxic pesticide content in November 2006 and January 2007 respectively in Shenzhen and Dongguan. Immediate action was taken to destroy the contaminated fruit right away. Furthermore, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) of the People's Republic of China demanded their Shenzhen branch to implement a comprehensive registration system for fruit supply to Hong Kong over the territory of Shenzhen. The SAR Government, however, is insensitive to the changing situation, keeps ignoring the pressing problem, and shifts the responsibility to mainland, showing no tendency to improve the monitoring system here in Hong Kong.

There will be a motion debate on "fully safeguarding the safety of food supply to Hong Kong" in the Legislative Council meeting tomorrow (Jan 24). In fact, Chief Executive Donald Tsang and PRC Premier Wen Jia-bao both emphasized recently the need to improve food safety monitoring system. York Chow, Secretary for Health, Welfare and food Bureau and Prof. Kwan Hoi-shan, the president of the Expert Committee of Food Safety, also publicly opined that law should be made on regulating the standard for residual pesticide in fruit and vegetable.

"Legislation is undoubtedly the fundamental solution to food safety problem. The Government should step up and announce clearly a timetable for legislation process!" Chow Yuen-ping warned.

Repeated food safety scandals have continuously drawn public attention, Greenpeace also repeatedly demands the government to legislate for food safety monitoring. To ensure food safety in HK, the government should set standards for residual pesticides, make laws to monitor food import by setting up a licensing system for suppliers, reinforce mandatory inspections at the border as well as arrange a traceability system for food supply.

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