Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene

 

Confirmed Minutes of the Twenty-fifth Meeting

held at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, 20 January 2005

at Room 1007, 10//F, Citibank Tower, 3 Garden Road, Central

 

 

Professor YUEN Kwok-yung, SBS, JP

(Chairman)

Mr CHAN Bing-woon, SBS, JP

 

Dr Helen CHAN

 

Mr HUNG Hak-hip, Peter

 

Dr Anthony Edward JAMES

 

Mr KWOK Chun-wah, Jimmy, MH

 

Mr LAI Tat-sang, David, MH

 

Ms Leona Lam, JP

 

Mrs LAM WONG Pik-har, Grace

 

Mr LEE Luen-wai, John, JP

 

Dr LO King-shun

 

Dr LO Wing-lok, JP

 

Dr LUI Chui-tong, Jacqueline

 

Mrs Carrie YAU

 

Permanent Secretary for Health,               Welfare and Food

Mr Thomas CHAN

 

Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and    Conservation

Miss Vivian KO

 

Secretary of the Advisory Council on     Food and Environmental Hygiene

 

Absent with Apologies

 

Dr John HO

 

Prof KWAN Hoi-shan

 

Dr P Y LAM

Director of Health

Mr Gregory LEUNG

Director of Food and Environmental     Hygiene

 

In Attendance

 

Health, Welfare and Food Bureau

 

Mr Vincent LIU

Acting Deputy Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food

Mr Wallace LAU

Assistant Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food

Mr Louis NG

Senior Executive Officer (Food and Environmental Hygiene)

 

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

 

Dr Philip Y Y HO

Consultant (Community Medicine)(Risk        Assessment & Communication)

 

Department of Health

 

Dr L Y TSE

Consultant Community Medicine (NCD)

 

 

Opening Remarks

 

             The Chairman welcomed Members to the meeting.

 

 

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

 

2.          Members confirmed the minutes of the last meeting without amendment.

 

 

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

 

3.          There was no matter arising from the minutes of the last meeting.

 

Agenda Item 3: Prevention of Avian Influenza: Consultation on Long Term Direction to Minimize the Risk of Human Infection

 

4.          The Chairman invited Ms Vivian KO to present the paper.

 

5.          A Member supported the approaches proposed by the Government, namely central/regional slaughtering, and considered that it would not affect Hong Kong��s status as a ��gourmet paradise��.  He opined that the public would also support the idea especially after the experience of the SARS outbreak.  Another Member also supported the policy of human-poultry segregation in general and urged the Government to make decision immediately. 

 

6.          A Member stressed that the objections from the trade should not be ignored and he considered it undesirable to rush into a decision before the examining the result of the pilot scheme to run a medium-sized slaughtering house.  Mrs Carrie YAU recognized that there were diverging views on the implementation of central/regional slaughtering in Hong Kong.  There were a lot of factors that needed to be considered before reaching a conclusion.  However, the Government would continue to proceed with the preparatory work as it would take sometime for conducting environmental impact assessment, inviting private sector participation, etc.

 

7.          A Member supported the pilot scheme because she considered it too drastic to go for central slaughtering immediately.  She also brought out the possible problem of chilled chickens being sold in disguise of freshly slaughtered chickens.  Another Member also supported the pilot scheme and urged for expedited implementation and review of outcome.  He suggested the Government look into new slaughtering/processing technology in order to improving the quality of chilled chickens.  Mrs Carrie YAU responded that the Government would discuss with the Mainland on ways to improve the quality of the chilled chickens.

 

8.          A Member advocated an immediate change for central slaughtering because co-existence of regional slaughtering hub and retail live poultry stalls could not protect the public health effectively.  He saw that regional slaughtering was a compromise of various political factors.  While he considered the existing preventive measures, such as reducing the density of live poultry in the retail markets, launching redesigned retail chicken stalls, restricting the number of imported live chickens, etc. useful, he suggested the Government to consider revoking the licence of those sub-standard retail stalls so as to further decreasing their number.  He also believed that the public would accept chilled chickens when slaughtering technology advanced.

 

9.          In response, Mrs Carrie YAU briefed Members on the progress of the voluntary surrender scheme for live poultry retailers and said that the Government would assess if there was a need for a mandatory scheme at appropriate time.  Meanwhile, the Government would continue with its interim measures to protect public health.  On the quality of chilled chickens, she echoed that technology development would help enhance the quality of chilled chickens so that they could compete by quality, rather than price as in the case now.

 

10.        A Member advised that the Government should explore means to involve the existing members of the live poultry trade in the new modus operandi, e.g. investing in the new slaughtering facilities, etc., in order to soliciting their support for the change.  Mrs Carrie YAU agreed to consider this and added that the new operation would also create new opportunity for the trade.

 

11.        A Member reiterated that the implementation of central/regional slaughtering would affect the livelihood of over 40,000 participants of the trade.  If the issue was not handled properly, it would affect the stability of our society.  Besides, if the slaughtering plants were not properly managed, there was a possibility of causing massive food poisoning.  Lastly, he and another Member both queried the commercial viability of a central slaughtering house in Hong Kong.  They both proposed to test the feasibility of implementing regional slaughtering by a pilot scheme first and review the outcome together with other relevant factors such as environmental impact, commercial viability, etc.

 

12.        The Chairman shared the concern on the possibility of cross-contamination at the slaughtering hub, although he also thought that the same could take place in the existing retail outlets.  He suggested the Government collect relevant overseas statistics and compare the trend of food poisoning cases before and after the implementation of central/regional slaughtering in these countries.  He also asked FEHD to study bacterial counts of slaughtered chickens coming from fresh provision shops and regional slaughtering plants and study methodologies to improve the quality of chilled chickens before the pilot scheme was to roll out.  Lastly, he asked the Government to explore means to involve the existing members of the live poultry trade in the new modus operandi as far as possible.

 

 

Agenda Item 4: Any Other Business

 

13.        At the Chairman��s request, Dr HO briefed the meeting on the recent cases of German eggs reported to be contaminated by dioxin.  He explained that the key concern of dioxin was its long-term effect to human health rather than acute poisoning.  As 90% of human exposure to dioxin was from food, FEHD had been monitoring the situation by its regular food surveillance programme and had issued action guidelines for handling dioxin contamination.  Relevant tests conducted in the past, including the one on dietary exposure of secondary school students to dioxins and heavy metals, which was reported to this Council in October 2003, showed no sign of concern.  FEHD had contacted the Germany Consulate-General for more information on the recent cases of dioxin-contaminated eggs.  Preliminary information revealed that the contaminated eggs were not exported to Hong Kong.  FEHD would continue to monitor the development and take necessary action when necessary.

 

14.        There being no other business, the meeting ended at about 4:40 p.m.  The date of next meeting was tentatively fixed on 10 March 2005.

 

Secretariat

Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene

Health, Welfare and Food Bureau

January 2005