New food safety laws are to be introduced in Hong Kong following a series of scares over contaminated food from China, officials announced Thursday.
The measures will allow the government to force wholesalers and retailers to withdraw food from sale if there are concerns, the territory's minister for health York Chow announced.
AdvertisementThe move comes after scares over fish and eggs imported into Hong Kong from China in recent weeks which have turned out to be contaminated with potentially cancer-causing substances.
Freshwater fish imports to the city of 6.8 million from neighbouring Guangdong province have been halted after some were found to contain the carcinogenic substance malachite green.
Eggs imported from China have also been found to contain a potentially dangerous red dye injected into the yolk to give it an appearance favoured by some Chinese buyers.
Health officials in Hong Kong were criticised for their response to the scares during which they at first insisted no contaminated eggs had been imported before admitting they had.
Legislators Thursday passed a motion expressing concern at the government's handling of the scares and calling for tighter controls to be implemented.
Chow said the government currently had no powers to order the recall of tainted food items but told legislators new laws would be tabled within two months to give officials more power.
Earlier, health secretary Carrie Yau told legislators public warnings were not always issued when contaminated foods were discovered by government laboratories to avoid alarming people.
A spokeswoman for the Consumer Council said she hoped tough penalties could be introduced under the new food safety laws to punish wholesalers and retailers who knowingly sold tainted food.
Most of the poultry, meat and eggs consumed in Hong Kong, a densely-populated city with no agricultural industry, are imported from neighboring China.