The report by Cable TV that no cattle DNA was found in beef balls it bought prompted a religious group to call on all Muslims to eat only Halal food or at restaurants with Halal certification.
Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man pledged his bureau will work with Customs to crack down on the irregularities.
Ko said the vendors could be breaching the Trade Descriptions Ordinance if the beef balls only contained pork.
“We are not in charge of all the imported food but the Centre for Food Safety carries out spot checks on up to 60,000 food samples, which is a decent ratio when compared to other places,” Ko said.
However, the report has raised concerns among the Muslim community which is prohibited from eating pork and which can only consume Halal, or permissible, food, that has been treated in a specific way.
The Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong said Muslims in Hong Kong should go to restaurants which have been issued with Halal Certificates and whose food products have been checked and verified.
Sringatin, 32, chairwoman of the Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union who has worked in Hong Kong for 10 years, said it is unacceptable that the meat balls were not labeled properly.
“Out of respect for the Muslim community and those who cannot eat pork, the manufacturers should list the ingredients
on the packaging,” she told The Standard.
“The government also needs to monitor the market because it is about trust and respect to others.
“Domestic workers don’t have any choice as the government only asks the employers to give us food, which may not be suitable.”
The spokesman for the Centre for Food Safety said it is following up the report and checking with several retailers including Chiu Yuen Chiu Chow Noodle at Wan Chai, Kai Bo Food Supermarket at Tin Shui Wai and a wet market stall which purchased beef meat balls from Four Seas Global Food.
He said they had obtained some samples from two of the retailers but the third was not selling the product.
According to the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance, any person selling food or drug which is not of the nature, substance or quality demanded by the purchaser shall be guilty of an offense for which the maximum penalty is a fine of HK$10,000 and three months’ imprisonment.
In another development, beef merchants yesterday demanded that the government open the live cattle market to more competition to help bring down beef prices.
Ko said the bureau has started to discuss opening the market with the mainland authority but stressed that greater competition may not guarantee lower prices.