Sunflower oil samples detected with harmful contaminant benzo[a]pyrene

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced today (July 7) that three bottled sunflower oil samples were detected to contain a harmful contaminant, benzo[a]pyrene (BaP). Members of the public are advised to stop consuming the affected batches of the products. The trade should stop using or selling the affected batches of the products should they possess them.

Product details are as follows:

(1) Product name: Sunflower Oil
Brand: goccia d'oro
Place of origin: Italy
Importer: Organic Gardens International Ltd
Lot number: L.001793 188
Volume: 1 litre per bottle
Best-before date: January 31, 2017

(2) Product name: organic Sunflower Oil virgin
Brand: Bio Planete
Place of origin: France
Importer: Panway Corporation Ltd
Lot number: 49370033 EP
Volume: 500 millilitres per bottle
Best-before date: May 31, 2017

(3) Product name: Sunflower Seed Oil - Organic
Brand: Da Agricoltura
Place of origin: Italy
Distributor: Lorence & Company
Lot number: L04216
Volume: 750 millilitres per bottle
Best-before date: August 11, 2017

A spokesman for the CFS said, "The CFS collected the abovementioned samples from two retail outlets in Central for testing. The test results showed that the 'goccia d'oro' sample contained BaP at a level of 13 micrograms per kilogram (µg/kg) while the 'Bio Planete' and 'Da Agricoltura' samples were found to contain the contaminant at a level of 22µg/kg and 26µg/kg respectively, all exceeding the action level of 10µg/kg established by the CFS after consulting the Expert Committee on Food Safety."

The spokesman said that the CFS had informed the vendors concerned of the irregularities and instructed them to stop sale and remove from shelves the affected batches of the products immediately.

BaP is a kind of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are contaminants ubiquitous in the environment. BaP is toxic to genes and can cause cancer in human. The International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization has classified BaP as "carcinogenic to human". The intake of BaP should be avoided as far as practicable.

The spokesman pointed out that if an edible oil sample is found to contain BaP at a level equal or greater than 20µg/kg, the derived Margin of Exposure will be lower than 10 000, indicating a possible public health concern.

According to Section 54 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132), all food for sale in Hong Kong, locally produced or imported, must be fit for human consumption. An offender is subject to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months upon conviction.

The CFS will continue to closely follow up on the incident and take appropriate action. Investigation is ongoing.

Ends/Thursday, July 7, 2016