Antibiotics, high sodium levels found in Ma Ling and other canned meat products in HK

Hong Kong's consumer council has issued a warning on Thursday (June 15) about the high sodium content and the presence of antibiotics detected in processed meat products.

Of the 25 luncheon meat and eight sausage samples tested in a recent study, traces of the antibiotic sulfadimidine was detected in a sample of the popular Ma Ling premium pork luncheon meat, South China Morning Post reported.

The antibiotic is commonly used to treat pigs with respiratory issues as well as improve their growth and weight gain.

The amount of sulfadimidine detected in the luncheon meat (199.3μg/kg) exceeded the 0.05mg/kg limit recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Three to six per cent of people who consume these meat products may experience allergic reactions such as hives, rashes or face swelling, said Dr Ho Pak-Leung from University of Hong Kong's microbiology department.

Sulfadimidine can help antibiotic-resistant bacteria survive in the human body, the consumer council said.

The study also found high levels of sodium present in the processed meat products.

The sodium content in tested luncheon meat samples ranged between 517mg and 1,180mg per 100g while the sausage samples were found to contain between 707mg and 851mg of sodium.

An adult should not consume more than 2,000mg of sodium in a day, said the WHO. Consuming too much sodium may lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease.

Six luncheon meat and three sausage samples were also found containing the preservative sodium nitrite, which could cause the blood disorder methemoglobinemia when taken in excess.

Red meat and processed meat were classified as a Group 1 carcinogen in 2015 by WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer, and have been linked with colorectal cancer.

The consumer council said it has passed the findings to Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety (CFS) for follow-up actions.

Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) told AsiaOne on Friday (June 16) that meat and meat products such as canned meat are subjected to AVA’s inspections and sampling for compliance with Singapore's food safety standards and requirements.

They are tested for chemical contaminants such as sulfonomides and microbial contaminants like Salmonella.

AVA said that the test results for Ma Ling brand luncheon meat have shown that it meets food safety standards.