Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene


Confirmed Minutes of the Ninth Meeting
held at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, 14 September 2001
at Room 1007, 10/F Citibank Tower, Garden Road

Present

Dr TSE Chi-wai, Daniel (Chairman)
Mr CHAN Bing-woon  
Dr HO Dit-sang, John
Dr Anthony Edward JAMES
Professor KWAN Hoi-shan
Mrs LAM WONG Pik-har, Grace
Mr Eddy LI
Dr the Hon LO Wing-lok
Professor MA Ching-yung
Mrs Lily YAM Secretary for the Environment and Food
Mrs Lessie WEI Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation
Mrs Rita LAU Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene
Mrs Ingrid YEUNG Secretary


Absent with Apologies

Mr Peter HUNG
Mr KAN Chung-nin, Tony
Miss Leonie KI
Mr LEE Luen-wai, John
Dr Ronald LEUNG
Mr LO Yau-lai, Winston
Professor YUEN Kwok-yung
Dr Margaret CHAN         Director of Health


In Attendance

Environment and Food Bureau

Mrs Stella HUNG Deputy Secretary for the Environment and Food
Mr David LAU Principal Assistant Secretary for the Environment and Food

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

Dr S P MAK Deputy Director (Food and Public Health)
Mr W H CHEUK Deputy Director (Environmental Hygiene)
Ms Winnie SO Assistant Director (Headquarters)
Dr Y Y HO Consultant (Community Medicine) (Risk Assessment and Communication)
Mr M C YUEN Pest Control Officer-in-charge

Department of Health

Dr L Y TSE Consultant (Community Medicine)


Opening Remarks

The Chairman welcomed Members to the meeting.

Agenda Item 1: Confirmation of Minutes of Last Meeting

2. Members confirmed the minutes of the last meeting as correct subject to the following amendments -

(a) Paragraph 8

To add "of" after "the presence" in the fourth line.

(b) Paragraph 30

To amend the first sentence to read "Dr Mak said that �K FEHD also monitored the presence of Vibrio cholerae in its food surveillance programme and conducted regular testing of fish tank water at restaurants."

Agenda Item 2 : Matters arising from Minutes of Last Meeting

3. The Chairman said that at the last meeting held on 5 July 2001 Members were consulted on the Administration's proposal to separate live quails from live chickens at all levels. He asked Mrs Hung to brief Members of the progress. Mrs Hung said that the drafting of the proposed legislative amendments was near completion and the Amendment Regulation would be tabled at LegCo following the Policy Address debates. The Administration had consulted quail wholesalers and retailers and they had no major objection to the proposals. The Administration was considering a financial assistance package for those affected by the proposals including quail farmers and wholesalers. She informed Members that as waterfowls were natural carriers of avian influenza viruses, the Administration would also take the opportunity of the legislative amendment exercise to require separate packing of carcasses and offal of ducks and geese for sale at retail outlets so as to prevent cross-contamination.

Agenda Item 3: Alignment of market rental adjustment mechanism and other related matters

4. The Chairman said that the purpose of the paper was to inform Members of the Administration's proposals and the consultation regarding the alignment of market rental adjustment mechanisms and other practices relating to the letting of public market stalls. Ms So made a power point presentation on the paper.

5. The Chairman opined that the current market rental adjustment mechanisms, which were inherited from the two former Municipal Services Councils, were too complicated. The principle of aligning and simplifying the two mechanisms should be supported. However, considerations should be given as to whether it was an opportune time to introduce the proposals given the current economic downturn.

6. A Member remarked that it might not be appropriate to introduce the proposals at present in view of the economic environment. She asked whether all the costs incurred by the Government in managing public markets could be recovered from rentals after the proposed alignment of market rental adjustment mechanisms.

7. Mrs Lau replied that the proposal to set rental at market level would not result in complete cost recovery. The Chairman responded that the term "open market rent" seemed to suggest that all cost would be recovered. He suggested that further consideration should be given to the terminology.

8. Mrs Lau said that in assessing the open market rent the Rating and Valuation Department (R&VD) would take into account a number of factors including the commercial rentals in the vicinity of the market, the market facilities and the business turnover. The open market rent was not the same as commercial rent. She agreed to give further thought to the terminology.

9. A Member said that the tenants would unlikely accept the proposals as there could be a maximum of 20% of rental increase per annum. Mrs Lau clarified that the aim of the exercise was to propose a framework to align the market rental adjustment mechanisms inherited from the former Municipal Services Councils. It was not the aim of the exercise to raise market rental. In fact, a rental freeze was in place until the end of the calendar year and the Administration would decide whether the rental freeze should be extended or whether any downward adjustment of the rental should be made.

10. Another Member opined that the parties to be consulted would likely perceive the proposed mechanism as an attempt to increase rental and hence would voice objection to it. There would unlikely be detailed discussion on the proposals.

11. A Member asked how often the market rental was adjusted. Mr Cheuk replied that according to the previous practices of the two former Municipal Services Councils, the rent was adjusted every three years for market stalls in the urban area, and every four years for market stalls in the New Territories. Rating and Valuation Department (R&VD) would usually be consulted six months before the expiry of individual tenancy agreements to adjust the rent.

12. Mrs Yam said that during the reorganization of the provision of municipal services, the Administration had undertaken to review and align the different market rental adjustment mechanisms and practices within two years. The Administration had therefore put forward such proposals to LegCo in May 2001 and subsequently consulted other parties. There had yet to be an implementation timetable. She invited Members' views on the principle of aligning the market rental adjustment mechanisms.

13. A Member said that she supported the direction to align the different market rental adjustment mechanisms and to work out an efficient adjustment framework. She asked whether the rental could be reviewed every year.

14. In response, Mrs Lau said that a lot of administrative work was required in the rental assessment and tenancy renewal process. The proposal to assess the rental every three instead of four years was made taking into account the administrative workload and the need to keep the rental at an appropriate level. In response to Mrs Yam's enquiry, Mr Cheuk said that the time lapse between the rental assessment by R&VD and the actual imposition of the rental ranged from three to six months.

15. A Member said that in putting forward the proposals for consultation it should be emphasized that the proposed exercise was not to bring about full-cost recovery, but was meant to develop a simplified, efficient and reasonable market rental adjustment mechanism.

16. Another Member remarked that public markets were facing increased competition from supermarkets. He suggested that in the long run consideration should be given as to whether government subsidy should continue to be given in the management of public markets and whether the management could be privatized or corporatized. In response, Mrs Yam said that corporatization/privatization might lead to fundamental changes in the modus operandi of the public markets and significant impact on existing tenants. These were matters that should be carefully considered. The Chairman requested and Mrs Yam agreed that a paper on the future need for and the existing operation of public markets should be submitted to the Council for discussion.

17. The meeting concluded that the principle to align the different market rental adjustment mechanisms into a more simplified and efficient one was supported.

Agenda Item 4 : Reference information system for nutritional values of food

18. The Chairman said that the purpose of the paper was to inform Members of the establishment of a web-based reference information system for nutritional values of food. Dr Y Y HO made a power point presentation on the paper.

19. A Member suggested that the system could be further enhanced by providing information on the nutritional content of brand-name food products and indigenous food items, as well as information on other types of nutrients such as vitamins, calcium and iron. He also suggested that the system could be made more interesting and attractive by incorporating interactive programmes. For example, programmes calculating the nutritional values of recipes input by users and giving advice on any deficiency in or over-intake of nutrients based on the diets input by users could be incorporated.

20. Two other Members concurred that the future direction to enhance the system should be to provide dietary advice. One Member said that some dieticians had data for compiling the nutritional values of local indigenous food items such as dim sum. Such information could be uploaded onto the system, pending the food content analysis conducted at the Food Research Laboratory to be set up later in 2001.

21. The other Member suggested that promotional materials could be posted at commercial premises such as food stores to increase public awareness of the system. Mrs Yam remarked that posters could be posted at hospitals, clinics and supermarkets to help publicize the system. The first Member added that supermarkets might even place computers in their mega stores for access to the website.

22. In response to a Member's query, Dr Y Y HO said that the system could either be assessed through the government website (http://www.info.gov.hk) or its own website (http://fehd-niis.gov.hk).

23. A Member asked whether considerations would be given to introducing nutrition labelling. In response, Dr Mak said that it was undertaken in the 2000 Policy Address that a feasibility study on nutrition labelling would be conducted and a task force on this had been set up.

24. Addressing Dr L Y TSE's question, Dr Y Y HO said that for many food items in the database the cooking method of the food items was indicated.

25. A Member asked the Administration to prepare an article to introduce the launching of the system for publication in the Hong Kong Medical Association's Newsletter. Another Member added that a similar article could be published in the "Choice" magazine of the Hong Kong Consumer Council.

(Post-meeting note: An article was submitted to the Hong Kong Medical Association on 21.9.2001.)

Agenda Item 5 : Anti-rodent campaign 2002

26. The Chairman said that the purpose of the paper was to outline the objectives and implementation plan of the territory-wide Anti-rodent Campaign to be launched by FEHD in the first half of 2002 to prevent and control problems relating to rodents. Mr Yuen made a power point presentation on the paper.

27. In response to a Member's query, Dr L Y TSE said that based on information on local notified cases, contraction of rodent-borne diseases including leptospirosis and hantaviral diseases was not related to the occupation of the patients.

28. A Member asked whether the Clean Hong Kong Campaign would tie in with the Anti-rodent Campaign 2002. Dr Y Y HO answered in the affirmative.

29. The Member asked if advanced technology could be adopted to reduce the rodent population. Mr Yuen replied that traditional methods like poisoning were still considered very effective. Although other methods like ultra-sound or electromagnetic waves had been used to control rodents, they were not reliable.

30. In response to the Chairman's query, Dr Y Y HO said that in the Promotion Phase of the Campaign, efforts would be devoted to increasing the awareness of licensed food premises towards proper rodent control and preventive measures. In the Enhancement Phase, efforts would be devoted to evaluating whether the food premises had implemented appropriate measures accordingly. During the intervening period, food premises were expected to put into place the control measures which would take effect in time. The evaluation therefore would be done during the Enhancement Phase.

31. Addressing a Member's question, Mrs Lau said that large food premises might employ pest control companies to control the rodent problem, but others usually did it on their own. The Member went on to ask if the food premises were liable to prosecution if there was serious rodent problem in the premises. Dr Y Y HO answered in the affirmative.

32. A Member asked if statistics on local rodent population were available for evaluating the effectiveness of the anti-rodent campaign. Dr Y Y HO replied that evaluation was conducted to reveal the effectiveness of the last campaign by placing rodent baits in market buildings and constructions sites. The number of baits visited by rodents declined after the campaign which suggested a reduced rodent population. Surveys were also conducted to collect views from the market stallholders on the effectiveness of the campaign. Response was positive and many indicated that their awareness of proper rodent control had been increased.

Agenda Item 6: Any Other Business

(a) Suspected case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle in Japan

33. The Chairman invited Dr Mak to brief Members on the suspected case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle in Japan. Dr Mak said that on learning the suspected case on 11 September, FEHD immediately followed up with the Japanese Consulate General in Hong Kong and ascertained from them that the incriminated animal was a dairy cattle which was not reared for meat production. As a precautionary measure to safeguard public health, FEHD had, in line with the recommendations of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) and World Health Organisation (WHO), imposed three additional import control measures on Japanese beef. These were

(a)    imported beef should be accompanied by health certificate issued by recognised authorities stating that meat-and-bone meal was not used to feed cattle,
(b)    all cattle should have passed ante-mortem inspection by veterinary officers; and
(c)    export of specific high risk parts like brain and spinal cord were prohibited. FEHD would continue to maintain close liaison with the Japanese Consulate General in Hong Kong.

34. A Member asked what evidence an exporting country should produce before FHED accepted that no meat-and-bone meal had been used to feed cattle and the cattle from which the beef or beef products were derived were not the progeny of BSE suspect or confirmed females. Dr Mak replied that it was the responsibility of the concerned official authority of the exporting country to provide evidence and FEHD would request further information if clarifications were deemed necessary.

35. The Member asked if Japan had put in place a comprehensive BSE control system. Dr Mak said that the recent case was the first suspected case in Japan and the Japanese authorities had been requested to provide details on the control measures that had been or would be put in place to deal with BSE. Mrs Lau added that since the imposition of the additional import control measures on 11 September, no beef had been imported from Japan. Japan was still investigating whether meat-and-bone meal had been used to feed cattle. The additional import control measures were useful precautionary measures in safeguarding public health.

36. Another Member asked if a follow-up report on the case could be submitted to the Council at the next meeting. Dr Mak replied that if there was new progress or new information relating to the case, FEHD could provide an information paper for circulation to Members without having to wait for the coming meeting. [Post-meeting Note : An information paper to inform Members of the suspension of import of Japanese beef was circulated on 19 September 2001.]

Date of next meeting

37. The next meeting would tentatively be held on 1 November 2001.

38. There being no other issues, the meeting ended at 4:30 p.m.



Secretariat
Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene
Environment and Food Bureau
October 2001

 

Back