Hong Kong sales ban on food, drugs tainted by plasticizer

By Ming Yeung

HONG KONG - Taiwan food scandal makes Hong Kong sit up and take note

The government has imposed a ban on selling foods and medicines containing in excess of trace amounts of industrial plasticizer DEHP.

Significantly, the announcement came a few days after the government had insisted that the existing law is good enough.

But things apparently have changed since a food scandal, the worst in more than a decade in Taiwan, came to light on May 23 when three types of sports drinks were removed from store shelves for containing DEHP, a potentially cancer-causing additive used in plastics.

Secretary for Food and Health York Chow had insisted two days earlier that such a ban was not necessary because only large intakes of DEHP over a long period of time would affect health.

However, Chow announced on Friday that selling any food or drugs containing "more than set amounts of DEHP" would be prohibited.

This followed the discovery of more contaminated food in Taiwan and on the Chinese mainland.

The government has now announced that the threshold would be set at level of 1.5 parts per million and food products will be regularly checked for DEHP through the Centre for Food Safety's routine surveillance system.

Chow also warned that the risk of food items contaminated with the chemical may persist.

The two firms in Taiwan, which added the chemical to the foods they produced, may have supplied to mainland factories, he added.

Chow denied claims of slow action in dealing with the situation, but said a zero-tolerance approach is impractical because a lot of plastic food containers may also contain DEHP.

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