Hong Kong authorities have halted meat imports from a Brazilian exporter and two factories linked with that firm due to suspicions that some shipments were made with false health certificates.
The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) said it has conducted investigations following complaints about suspected false health certificates on a batch of frozen chicken feet imported from Brazil in May.
Following the investigation, it has been determined that the allegations were not without basis, the food safety watchdog said.
Sarah Choi Mei-yee, assistant director for food surveillance and control at CFS, said the agency received a complaint back in May and that it had contacted Brazilian authorities for assistance on the matter, news website HK01.com reports.
Inspectors uncovered ten meat batches where the health certificates came into doubt. Eight batches involved frozen chicken feet, while the other two comprised cow and pig innards.
Each batch weighted around 20 tons. The accompanying papers failed to mention the fact that the meat was only meant for use as pet food.
Evidence available did not suggest that the batches in question had made it to shop shelves in Hong Kong.
Those goods were stored at container terminals in Kwai Chung. Six batches were re-exported to Mainland China and two lots to Vietnam.
The remaining batches of chicken feet were sold to a local buyer, but Choi said the city’s 20 major retailers claimed they did not buy any of the meat products, Apple Daily reports.
Following the incident, all food items from the Brazilian exporter in question and two factories linked to it have been barred from Hong Kong.
The suspension will remain in place until Brazilian authorities are able to confirm the source of falsification and ensure food safety.
A spokesperson from the ParkN’Shop supermarket chain told HK01.com that they do not sell any items from the said exporter and factories. A Wellcome spokesperson also claimed that the group does not carry those products.
Choi pointed out that the suspected false documents had been made and signed before March. CFS has notified the Brazilian government, she said, adding that the agency will step up inspections on health certificates.
The police have been on the case since September 19 with information from the CFS, and have later discovered that one of the health certificates was indeed forged.
Dr Samuel Yeung Tze-kiu, CFS consultant on community medicine and risk assessment and communication, said the health risk would not be significant for those eating the chicken feet and organs in question as the dishes are usually served cooked.
“Western culinary culture usually does not include chicken feet. Therefore animal parts which Westerners do not eat would be used as pet food in the food processing line,” Yeung said.
There is currently no law in Hong Kong to regulate food safety for pets. The only law that can regulate pet food is a clause under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance which forbids misleading information about a product, including any descriptions of the imports and where the product comes from.
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