Warning on excess pesticide levels in vegetables

THREE vegetable samples with excessive levels of pesticide have been found for sale in Hong Kong by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS).

The three vegetable samples - an Indian lettuce, a snow pea and a sweet potato - were detected with pesticide residues at levels exceeding the legal limit. The CFS is following up on the cases.

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While the levels were not likely to cause adverse health impacts under normal consumption, the incident has prompted the CFS to issue advice on how to make vegetables safer to eat.

The spokesman said to reduce pesticide residues in vegetables either rinse vegetables several times under running water and then soak them in water for one hour or blanch them in boiling water for one minute and discard the water.

To further reduce the intake of pesticide residues, the outer leaves or peel of the vegetables can also be removed as appropriate.

The samples were collected at import level and at supermarkets in Sheung Shui and Yuen Long.

Test results showed that the Indian lettuce sample contained methomyl at a level of 0.74 parts per million (ppm) - 3.7 times the maximum residue limit.

The snow pea sample contained cyhalothrin at a level of 0.28 ppm, which is 1.4 times the maximum residue limit (0.2 ppm).

The sweet potato sample contained chlorpyrifos at a level of 0.11 ppm, that is 2.2 times the maximum residue limit (0.05 ppm).

Since the Pesticide Residues in Food Regulation (Cap 132CM) came into effect on August 1 last year, the CFS has taken over 33 800 samples at import, wholesale and retail levels for testing for pesticide residues and a total of 109 vegetable and fruit samples have been detected as having excessive pesticide residues. The overall unsatisfactory rate is less than 0.4 per cent.

Any person who imports, manufactures or sells any food not in compliance with the requirements of the Pesticide Residues in Food Regulation concerning pesticide residues commits an offence and is liable to a maximum fine of $50,000 and to imprisonment for six months upon conviction.

The CFS will follow up on the unsatisfactory results, including tracing the sources and distribution of the food in question and taking samples for testing so as to safeguard public health. Investigation is ongoing.

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