Customs today (February 19) advised the public to watch out for unsafe melamine ladles with excessive level of formaldehyde.
The Customs and Excise Department has recently drawn samples of melamine tableware from the market, and sent them to the Government Chemist for safety test.
Test results obtained yesterday (February 18) showed that the level of migration of formaldehyde from the melamine ladle samples was 4.3 times the permissible limit as laid down in the hygienic standard for the melamine products used as food containers and tablewares (GB 9690-88) of the National Standard of the People’s Republic of China. The standard stipulates that the permissible limit of migration of formaldehyde is 30 mg per litre.
Customs officers today seized 560 melamine ladles from an importer-cum-retailer in Tsuen Wan. Investigation is still continuing.
According to health advice, formaldehyde is not permitted for food use. However, as a metabolic intermediate, formaldehyde can be found naturally in food up to levels of 300-400 mg/kg, including fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and so on. Ingestion of a small amount of formaldehyde is unlikely to cause any acute effect. However, ingestion of a large amount can result in acute toxicity causing severe abdominal pain, vomiting, coma, renal injury and possible death.
A Customs spokesman said that the department was committed to the protection of consumer interests by ensuring that consumer goods, including melamine tableware, were reasonably safe for use by consumers.
"The department keeps a close watch on unsafe products announced by local, Mainland and overseas authorities, and regularly conducts surprise checks at retailers and draws samples for safety tests,” he added.
Under the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance, it is an offence to supply, manufacture or import into Hong Kong consumer goods unless the goods comply with the general safety requirement for consumer goods.
The maximum penalty for the offence is a fine of $100,000 and an imprisonment for one year on first conviction, and $500,000 and an imprisonment for two years on subsequent conviction.
To report unsafe consumer goods, consumers can write to the Consumer Protection Bureau, Customs and Excise Department on the 11th floor, North Point Government Offices, 333 Java Road, North Point or call the Customs 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.
Ends/Thursday, February 19, 2009