Health inspectors yesterday raided turtle gelatin maker Hoi Tin Tong's outlets to collect samples for testing.
The move came after a man claiming to be a former employee of the company took a video showing staff allegedly washing moldy pots of turtle jelly with water and sponge before reselling them. The Hoi Tin Tong brand was shown on the pots.
Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said inspectors went to all 81 retail points of the company.
"No irregularities were found," Ko stressed. "Despite so, we have taken samples for further testing."
The tests are to determine if the products indeed contain plastron - a part of a turtle shell - or other microorganisms.
According to the Trade Description Ordinance, in effect since July to control unfair trade practices, it is an offense to make product claims that cannot be substantiated.
The officers had also been to the firm's factory in Hong Kong, but Ko said it was closed. Hoi Tin Tong has factories in the mainland as well. The authority for quality and technology monitoring in Huizhou, Guangdong, said it has inspected the two Hoi Tin Tong factories in the city and no irregularities were found.
Ko said the results of the tests will also be made available to the Customs and Excise Department.
The center randomly selected 20 samples of turtle gelatin for chemistry and microorganism tests in 2010 and 2012. Nine of the samples were placed under the microbiology test and all were cleared.
Meanwhile, City University's department of biology and chemistry said it has been testing 30 samples of turtle jelly and related products from more than 10 brands since last year.
Associate professor Cheung Hon-yeung said the samples were taken from mainland and Hong Kong shops.
"The purpose is to find out the primary structure or component of different types of amino acids of these products," he said. The Hong Kong brands being tested include Hoi Tin Tong, Health Works and Hung Fook Tong.
"In the three samples from Hoi Tin Tong, one contained no plastron and two had very small amounts of it," Cheung said. He explained plastron is used in Chinese medicine to help build body tissues, strengthen the immune system and provide nutrients such as minerals and collagen.
"We are still studying the correlation between the effectiveness and amount of plastron, but the samples of Hoi Tin Tong were too little and the other brands were quite significant," Cheung said.