Hong Kong’s Mooncakes Found to Have High Levels of Cancer-Causing Chemical

A batch of this year’s mooncakes, the most popular Asian treat to eat during the Mid-Autumn Festival, might not be safe to consume after recent health tests.

Following Macau’s recall on mooncakes imported from Hong Kong, a health official from the region has stated that it plans to review safety limits for the carcinogen aflatoxin found in mooncakes. It was revealed that the region allows a higher level of the chemical in food than Macau.

Health authorities in Macau have recently banned mooncakes originating from Hang Heung Bakery in Hong Kong due to the presence of high levels of the carcinogenic chemical aflatoxin B1, reported South China Morning Post.

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The bakery however, will still be selling the product elsewhere.

By Macau’s health safety standards, 5 micrograms of aflatoxin B1 should be the maximum allowable amount of the substance for every kilogram of food. The aflatoxin B1 level found from the mooncakes was 7.48 micrograms. Macau immediately ordered a recall of all products found exceeding the requirement.

The maximum concentration of aflatoxin allowed in food in Hong Kong was 15 micrograms per kilogram, according to Hong Kong’s Harmful Substances in Food Regulations.

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When asked why the city permits a higher level of the chemical than Macau, Dr. Ko Wing-man, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food and Health said they will need to review the safety limits that the city currently imposes.

Ko noted, however, that there is currently no standard level for aflatoxin imposed or prescribed by the United Nation Codex Alimentarius Commission and individual governments are provisioned to independently assess risks and adopt an acceptable limit accordingly.

“In a general direction, Hong Kong will adopt the international standards set by the commission and amend our laws accordingly. But of course there will be disparities in different locations. We will continuously review our standards,” Ko was quoted as saying.

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Observers have noted how the Hong Kong government had been relatively slower in renewing safety limits for the chemical. While Macau recently renewed their standards five months ago, Hong Kong’s remained the same for the past 15 years.

Consumption of aflatoxins on a regular basis has been found to increase the risk of developing liver cancer. Aflatoxin B1 specifically increases the cancer risk in people with Hepatitis B or C.

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