Lead-tainted mainland vegetables sold in HK as organic produce

February 17, 2016 12:46
Some vegetables being sold as organic local produce may actually be from the mainland, the Hong Kong Organic Resource Center says. Photo: HKORC

Some Hong Kong merchants are selling vegetables from the mainland contaminated with heavy metals as organic produce, Apple Daily reported Wednesday, citing the Hong Kong Organic Resource Center.

The group tested 63 samples of vegetables from local markets, supermarkets and organic food markets for heavy metals between September and November last year.

A sample from Tsuen Wan Market had 0.16 milligram of lead per catty, and another from Yuen Long's Tai Kiu Market had 0.13 mg of lead per catty.

Both exceeded the Australian standard for lead content, although the vendors claimed they were local organic vegetables.

One sample of organic amaranth greens from the mainland sold at the Market Place supermarket in Tseung Kwan O’s Popcorn shopping mall was found to have 39 mg of copper per catty, three times higher than the Australian standard.

Another sample of amaranth greens, from a local farm, sold at the Taste supermarket in Festival Walk was also found to have excessive lead content.

Professor Jonathan Wong Woon-chung, director of the Hong Kong Organic Resource Center, said the local farms that supply vegetables to Tsuen Wan Market and Tai Kiu Market have organic certificates.

He sent staff to obtain samples from those organic farms, and the heavy metal levels in them were much lower than in the samples from those markets.

Some merchants may have sold vegetables from the mainland as local organic vegetables, as local produce sells at a much higher price, Wong said.

He urged the govenment to follow up, saying the city's standard for lead contamination in food is too loose and it has no standard for copper at all.

Wong advised people to soak and wash vegetables before cooking them.

Eating 38 grams per day of the vegetables that had the most lead content could cause slow development in learning and a reduction in IQ for children under six, he said.

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