Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene


Confirmed Minutes of the Eighteenth Meeting
held at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, 23 October 2003
at Room 1007, 10/F, Citibank Tower, 3 Garden Road, Hong Kong

Present

Professor YUEN Kwok-yung, JP (Chairman)
Dr CHAN Hei-ling, Helen
Mr KWOK Chun-wah, Jimmy, MH
Mr LEE Luen-wai, John
Dr LO King-shun

Dr the Hon LO Wing-lok, JP

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Dr LUI Chiu-tong, Jacqueline
Mrs Carrie YAU Permanent Secretary for Health,Welfare and Food
Mr Thomas CHAN Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation
Mr Gregory LEUNG Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene
Miss Vivian KO (Secretary)


Absent with Apologies

Mr CHAN Bing-woon, SBS, JP
Dr HO Dit-sang, John
Mr HUNG Hak-hip, Peter
Professor KWAN Hoi-shan
Mr LAI Tat-sang, David, MH
Ms LAM Wai-ling, Leona, JP
Mrs LAM WONG Pik-har, Grace
Dr Anthony Edward JAMES �@
Dr P Y LAM Director of Health



In Attendance

Health, Welfare and Food Bureau

Mr Edward LAW Principal Assistant Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food (Food and Environmental Hygiene) 2
Ms Priscilla TO Assistant Secretary for Health,
Welfare and Food (Food and
Environmental Hygiene) 1
Ms Shirley KWAN Assistant Secretary for Health,
Welfare and Food (Food and
Environmental Hygiene) 4
Mr Louis NG Senior Executive Officer (Food and
Environmental Hygiene)

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

Mr W H CHEUK Deputy Director (Environmental Hygiene)
Mr HUNG Chi-Pai Assistant Director (Operations) 1
Mr Kevin CHOI Head, Clean Hong Kong
Mr Alfred LEE Senior Administrative Officer
(Environmental Hygiene)

Department of Health

Dr L Y TSE Consultant (Community Medicine)

Opening Remarks 

                   The Chairman welcomed Members to the meeting.   

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Agenda Item 1: Confirmation of the Minutes of the Last Meeting 

2.                                           Members confirmed the minutes of the last meeting. 

 

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising from the Minutes of the Last Meeting 

3.                                          There was no matter arising.   

 

Agenda Item 3 : Provisional Food Business Licences

 

4.                                         The Chairman invited Mr Cheuk to present the paper.

 

5.                                         In response to a Member��s query as to why FEHD issued provisional food business licences, Mr Cheuk said that the primary purpose was to facilitate the licence applicants to start operation as soon as possible given that in some cases it might take up to nine months for the applicant to remove illegal structures and erect new structures in order to meet all the stringent requirements for a full licence. 

 

6.                                         A Member suggested that the Government should upgrade the professionalism of food handlers through the introduction of a certification/registration system in order to improve the overall hygiene condition of food premises in Hong Kong.  Mr Leung concurred that it was important to enhance the training of food handlers and FEHD would continue to evaluate if any improvements could be made to the training courses.  As a long-term goal, consideration was also given to encourage food handlers to organize themselves into a professional organization so as to recognize the professional standard of food handlers through the implementation of a registration/certification system. 

 

7.                                         Mr Cheuk added that FEHD was planning to implement a number of new improvement measures in this respect.  These measures included the incentive scheme for hygiene improvement, the requirement to appoint a Hygiene Manager or a Hygiene Supervisor, and the implementation of the Open Categorisation Scheme to grade the hygiene conditions of all food premises and require the premises to post the grading sign at a conspicuous location on their premises.

 

8.                                         A Member said that he agreed with the other member��s views about the need to upgrade the professional standard of food handlers.  He also indicated support to the Government��s proposal in Paper 13/2003.  He suggested that adequate publicity about the enhanced regulatory control over provisional licensees should be made.  

 

9.                                         A Member asked if it was possible to expedite the processing of a full food business licence so as to address the problem of some provisional licensees abusing the system.  Another Member concurred that the problem would be resolved if only full licences were issued within a much shortened timeframe.  In response, Mr Leung said that FEHD, the Buildings Department (BD) and the Fire Services Department would vet a food business application and advise on the requirements needed to be fulfilled before the application could be approved.  In some cases, the process of making arrangements to meet the additional requirements could be lengthy as the applicant might come up with a new proposal on the layout and design of the facilities.  As a trade facilitation measure, the applicant would be issued a provisional business licence if he could arrange a recognized professional (e.g. an authorized person or a structural engineer registered under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123)) to certify compliance of certain essential requirements.  Another Member  supplemented that the provisional business licensing system was welcomed by the trade as it would enable them to better plan for their business operation. 

 

10.                                         A Member asked whether the recognized professional certifying compliance of the essential requirements could be held responsible if subsequent inspection revealed that there was unauthorized alteration to the premises after professional certification was issued.  In response, Mr Leung said that FEHD was discussing with BD as to whether any disciplinary action could be taken against those professionals who were found to have issued certification without going through a due process to inspect the premises.  

 

Agenda Item 4 : Unauthorized Building Works Found at Licensed Food Premises

 

11.                                     The Chairman invited Mr Cheuk to present the paper.

 

12.                                     Members indicated support to the proposal in the paper.  In response to the Chairman��s query about the number of food premises with unauthorized building works (UBWs), Mr Cheuk said that FEHD had not conducted any specific survey on the total number of such premises in Hong Kong.  However, regular inspection by FEHD��s health inspectors revealed that the problem was quite common. 

 

13.                                     Addressing the Chairman��s concern about the seriousness of the problem of UBWs found in existing licensed food premises, Mr Leung said that common examples of UBWs were water cooling towers, exhaust fans, ventilating ducts and commercial signage erected outside the premises.  While FEHD proposed that no new licence or transfer of licence would be approved for food premises with UBWs, the UBWs found in existing food premises were subject to  BD��s enforcement policy.  FEHD had recently obtained BD��s agreement to accord priority to the removal of UBWs that might have environmental hygiene implications on top of their existing criteria of public safety concern. 

 

14.                                     A Member asked if FEHD would consider granting exemption to any new licence or licence transfer application if the UBWs found in the premises under application did not and would not cause any environmental hygiene nuisances.  Mr Leung said that the proposal in the paper would not apply to any UBWs found in the buildings where the food premises were located but were unrelated to the operation or business of the food premises.  As the UBWs commonly found at food premises (e.g. water cooling towers) often caused environmental hygiene problems to the surrounding areas, it was not recommended to allow for exemption. 

 

15.            Upon a Member��s query as to how long it would take to rectify the problem of UBWs at existing licensed food premises, Mr Leung said that this would depend on BD��s enforcement policy and priorities.  The Member further asked about the sanction against any licensee who erected UBWs after a new licence was issued to him or an existing licence was approved to be transferred to him.  In response, Mr Leung said that FEHD was considering two possible options to address the problem.  The first one was direct revocation of the licence, whereas the second one was to give demerit points to the licensees depending on the severity of the environmental hygiene problem that the UBWs might cause or had caused.

 

Agenda Item 5 : Proposed New Penalties for Repeat Cleanliness Offenders

 

16.                                     The Chairman invited Mr Edward LAW to present the paper.

 

17.                                     After introducing the paper, Mr Law invited Members to fill in the questionnaire tabled at the meeting to give views on whether additional penalties should be imposed on repeated cleanliness offenders.  Members were asked to hand in the completed questionnaire to the Secretariat after the meeting or return it by fax or mail later.

 

18.                                      The Chairman said that a Member had left a note about the paper before leaving the meeting.  She suggested imposing a fixed penalty of $1,500 on first, second and third-time cleanliness offenders, but for each further offence, the amount of penalty could be increased by four times, sixth times and so on to increase the deterrent effect. 

 

19.                                         A Member asked why the Team Clean finally decided not to take forward the option to publish the names of repeat cleanliness offenders to enhance the deterrent effect against them.  Mr Leung responded that many persons might bear the same name and the publication of the name of repeat offenders would affect those innocent persons who had the same name.  Moreover, a long list of names might not bring about the desired deterrent effect as the public and the media would gradually get used to the list.  The Team Clean had given consideration as to whether these limitations could be overcome by disclosing more particulars of the offenders.  However, this might lead to cases of impersonation and fraud and therefore was not considered appropriate.

 

20.                                     In response to a Member��s query as to whether there was any common personal background of the 200-plus repeat offenders, Mr Leung said that about two-thirds of these cases were related to unauthorized display of posters or bills.  It was considered appropriate to impose a higher penalty by serving a community service order on these offenders so as to deter them from pursuing such commercial activities.  He added that the employers who hired these persons to display posters or bills would also be prosecuted if they could be traced. 

 

Agenda Item 6: Any Other Business

 

21.                                     The Chairman said that a Member could not attend this meeting due to other engagement.  He had written to the Secretariat to indicate his support to papers in Agenda Item 3 and Item 5.  

 

22.                                     The Chairman said that the Secretariat had arranged a visit to a chicken farm for Members on 22 October 2003 to enrich Members�� knowledge about the local live chicken industry.  To give Members a better understanding of the Government��s work in the areas of food safety and environmental hygiene, the Secretariat would arrange other visits for Members later.  

 

23.                                     There being no other business, the meeting ended at about4:30 p.m.

 

 

Secretariat

Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene

Health, Welfare and Food Bureau

January 2004

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