EC concerns over Hong Kong scrutiny of FCM exports

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Hong kong, European union

Experts from Brussels have raised concerns over Hong Kong's lack of scrutiny of food contact materials (FCMs) exported into the European Union.

The team of experts from the European Commission said Hong Kong has no designated authority to scrutinise FCM exports either originating in the territory or those trans-shipped from China into Europe.

The three-person team from the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) also found there was no legal requirement that inspections be carried out in the territory on FCMs manufactured in Hong Kong or mainland China.

“Overall, the Hong Kong authorities have no legal basis for FCM control transited from mainland China via Hong Kong into EU even though these products are not controlled to EU standards in China,”​ said the FVO report. “Given the current status it is not possible for Hong Kong authorities to implement export controls.”

No FCM company register

The two competent authorities (CA) responsible for FCMs marketed in Hong Kong are the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and the Customs and Excise Department (C&ED). The EC team said it was assured by the two bodies that “the vast majority of FCM manufactured in mainland China and exported into EU by Hong Kong traders are directly shipped from mainland China without actually passing Hong Kong territory”.

The EC found there is no register of companies producing FCMs in Hong Kong. While the territory’s exporters association said that no FCM manufactured in Hong Kong were exported to the EU, the European inspectors noted no “written evidence to confirm this statement was provided to the mission team by the CAs”.

Poor communication

The FCO investigation also highlighted weaknesses in the way authorities in Hong Kong followed up incidents from the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). While there are procedures in place to do this, the team discovered not all problems flagged up by the RASFF system had been investigated and that there was “very limited communication”​ between authorities in Hong Kong and mainland China.

From 2004 to the time of the visit last November, the EC said there had been 142 FCM-related notifications through RASFF from the territory. Some 78 of these had been connected to overall migration and plasticizers from plastics, as well as the presence of amines and heavy chemicals in kitchen utensils and ceramic wares.

Potential shortfalls were also noted about Hong Kong’s official laboratory. While it was well-resourced to conduct migration testing to EC standards, the current scope of accreditation covered “only very limited number of analytical methods for FCM analysis”,​ said the report.

The investigators added that even though there are enough labs to conduct EC-standard migration analysis, they are not used for export purposes and tests were not carried out on the main substances notified through RASFF.

The EC team called on Hong Kong to ensure that FCM exported into Europe meet standards under Commission Directive 2002/72/EC “at least”.​ Boosting communications between authorities in Hong Kong and China on RASFF incidents was also recommended.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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