Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene


Confirmed Minutes of the Sixteenth Meeting
held at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 20 May 2003

at Room 2005, 20/F, Murray Building, 5 Garden Road, Hong Kong

Present

Professor YUEN Kwok-yung, JP (Chairman)
Mr CHAN Bing-woon, SBS, JP
Dr CHAN Hei-ling, Helen
Dr HO Dit-sang, John
Mr HUNG Hak-hip, Peter
Dr Anthony Edward JAMES
Professor KWAN Hoi-shan
Mr KWOK Chun-wah, Jimmy
Mr LAI Tat-sang, David, MH
Ms LAM Wai-ling, Leona, JP
Mrs LAM WONG Pik-har, Grace
Mr LEE Luen-wai, John
Dr LO King-shun
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

Dr the Hon LO Wing-lok
Dr Margaret CHAN Director of Health



In Attendance

Health, Welfare and Food Bureau

Mr Eddy CHAN Deputy Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food (Food and Environmental Hygiene)
Mr Edward LAW Principal Assistant Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food (Food and Environmental Hygiene) 2

Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department

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Dr K K LIU Deputy Director
Mr C W LAI Assistant Director (Inspection and Quarantine)

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Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

Dr Y Y HO Consultant (Community Medicine)
(Risk Assessment and Communication)

Department of Health

Dr L Y TSE Consultant (Community Medicine)

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Opening Remarks

                The Chairman welcomed Members to the meeting.  He said that the meeting was the first meeting of the new term of membership of the Advisory Council.  He hoped that Members would support the work of the Advisory Council for the protection of food safety and environmental hygiene. 

  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: Vaccination for the Control of H5N1 Avian Influenza in Hong Kong

  4.                             The Chairman invited Dr K K LIU to present the paper. 

  5.                             A Member asked whether chickens vaccinated against H5 avian influenza viruses were safe for human consumption.  Dr Liu replied that the vaccine approved for use in Hong Kong was a registered commercial vaccine.  Killed H5N2 virus was used as the virus component of the vaccine, whereas the oil-adjuvant component was widely used in other vaccines for chickens.  Because the oil-based adjuvant could persist for some 2-3 weeks after inoculation, vaccination should be withdrawn from chickens at least 4 weeks before they were released to market.  By the time the chickens were available for sale, they would not have any residue of the oil-based adjuvant.  In addition, the vaccine manufacturer had completed the tests on the safety of the vaccine and there had been no indication of any problems with humans consuming chickens vaccinated with this vaccine or with other killed avian virus vaccines containing the same adjuvant anywhere in the world.

  6.                             Another Member asked whether imported live chickens from the Mainland would be vaccinated against H5 avian influenza viruses.  Mr Eddy CHAN answered in the affirmative.  He said that the Government had visited the Mainland Institute responsible for manufacturing the vaccine approved for use in the Mainland and had already started discussions with the Mainland authority on the new import control programme for H5 vaccinated birds. 

  7.                             Another Member asked about the price of the vaccine and whether breeder chickens and ordinary chickens were vaccinated in the same way.  Dr Liu replied that two doses of the vaccine would cost about HK$0.50.  He said that there was currently little chicken breeding in Hong Kong and practically all day-old chickens were imported from the Mainland.  If there was any commercial breeder chicken farm in the future, the vaccination response of breeder chickens had to be monitored to see if any adjustment of the vaccination programme should be made. 

  8.                             In response to a Member��s query about the testing protocol on imported chickens at the Man Kam To Control Point, Dr Liu said that blood samples were drawn from imported chickens to test for H5 antibody under the existing import control programme.  Positive blood test results might indicate that the chickens concerned had been exposed to H5 avian influenza viruses, therefore chickens with positive blood test results would be repatriated to the Mainland.  However, when the Mainland also vaccinated their chickens to be supplied to Hong Kong, the import control programme would have to be revised to monitor if the vaccinated chickens contained satisfactory antibody response and were free of H5 avian influenza viruses.  The Government had started discussions with the Mainland authority on the new import control programme.

  9.                             A Member asked whether it was too stringent to require all chickens to have satisfactory antibody response before they could be released to the market.  Dr Liu replied that every batch of chickens from local farms had to be tested for H5 antibody to ensure that the chickens had protection against H5 avian influenza viruses.  A testing programme had already been put in place for the purpose.

  10.                        The Member suggested that the health certificates for Mainland chickens should certify that the chickens had been vaccinated by a vaccine approved for use in the Mainland with equivalent effects as the one used in Hong Kong.  Mr Eddy CHAN concurred. 

11.                        Another Member asked how the Government could monitor if farmers had complied with the requirement to vaccinate their chickens against H5 avian influenza viruses and what would be the sanctions against non-compliance.  In response, Dr Liu said that every batch of chickens must be subject to testing for antibody and would not be allowed for sale unless the chickens showed a satisfactory level of antibody response.  The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) had also imposed a licence condition to require farmers to vaccinate their chickens with a registered vaccine against H5 avian influenza viruses.  Those farmers who failed to comply with this licence condition would have their licences revoked.  In addition, AFCD would also inspect the purchase and sales records of the vaccine. 

  12.                        A Member asked whether it was a normal practice to use sentinels to check for disease infection in livestock farms and whether the sentinels would become a source of infection in the farms.   In response, Dr Liu said that it was common to keep sentinels for monitoring disease infection in livestock farms.  Since chickens were susceptible to H5N1 avian influenza, the health conditions of the sentinels served as a clear indication of whether there was virus incursion in a farm.  If H5 virus or antibody was detected in the sentinels, AFCD would take prompt actions to investigate into the case.  Chickens would not be allowed for sale until there was evidence confirming that no H5 virus was circulating in the farm.   The Chairman added that if sentinels were infected with H5 avian influenza viruses and died subsequently, it indicated that there was not adequate flock immunity to protect the sentinels.  It could also be due to unsatisfactory biosecurity standard of the farm. 

  13.                        A Member said that the sanitary standard applicable to chickens imported from the Mainland should be the same as that applicable to local chickens.  Mr Eddy CHAN agreed.  Mr Gregory LEUNG added that the Mainland authority adopted a very stringent practice to ensure the sanitary standard of live chickens supplied to Hong Kong.  If any consignment of chickens failed to meet the import requirements, the concerned exporting farms would no longer be permitted to supply live chickens to Hong Kong. 

  14.                        A Member pointed out that vaccinated chickens could still be infected with H5 avian influenza.  It was therefore important for local farmers to continue to improve the biosecurity standard of their farms.  In response, Dr Liu said that farmers had started to change their mindset about the need to implement biosecurity measures.  They had put in place measures such as putting up barriers to reduce trespassing into their farms, segregating the production area away from the loading, unloading and feed areas, and installing disinfectant pool at the entrance of their farms.  AFCD would continue to educate farmers on the need to implement biosecurity measures. 

  15.                        Another Member asked whether birds reared in farms would be infected by wild birds given that H5N1 virus was endemic amongst wild birds in the region.  Dr Liu said that all local farmers had installed bird-proofing facilities at chicken sheds to minimize the risk of infection by wild birds.  In fact, no local farms had been found to be infected since all chickens were vaccinated against H5 avian influenza viruses by end February 2003. 

  16.                        The Member suggested that the Government should expedite discussions with the Mainland so that imported chickens could be vaccinated against H5 avian influenza viruses as soon as possible to minimize the risk of recurrence of avian influenza outbreaks.  In response, Mr Eddy CHAN said that the Government had started discussions with the Mainland authorities on the new import control programme.  Mainland live chickens for the Hong Kong market would be vaccinated as soon as agreement was reached on the new programme. 

  17.                        The Chairman expressed concern about the recent H7N7 avian influenza outbreak and the reported human cases of infection in the Netherlands.  He asked whether H7N7 virus had ever been detected in Hong Kong and if Hong Kong had imported any poultry or poultry products from the Netherlands.  In response, Dr Liu said that Hong Kong had not imported any live poultry from the Netherlands.  Nor had H7N7 virus been detected here.  Mr Leung said that Hong Kong had imported poultry products from the Netherlands before but the quantity was not substantial.  [Post-meeting Note : Hong Kong had immediately imposed a temporary ban on the import of poultry and poultry products from the Netherlands when we received the report of the outbreak.]

 

Agenda Item 4 : Pro-active Actions taken by the Multi-disciplinary Response Team to Contain the Spread of SARS Cases

  18.                        The Chairman invited Mr Eddy CHAN to present the paper.

  19.                        A Member asked if a residential building with confirmed SARS case could be removed from the list of ��infected buildings�� immediately if the concerned SARS case was confirmed not to be infected within the building.  In response, Mrs Carrie YAU said that this could not be entertained because the decision to publish the list of ��infected buildings�� was made in response to the community��s demand for a more transparent approach to disseminate information about confirmed SARS cases.  The aim was to increase the awareness of the residents in the ��infected buildings�� the importance of maintaining good environmental and personal hygiene. 

  20.                        The Member suggested that the Government should take proactive actions to rectify the problem of sewage moving from one flat to the other in some public housing estates due to the interconnection of internal sewage pipes of different flats.  Mrs Yau said that the SARS outbreak had aroused the community��s concern about the piping problems in residential flats.  Various government departments, including the Housing Department, Buildings Department and Drainage Services Department, were responsible for overseeing drainage pipes of public housing estate buildings, external drainage pipes of private residential buildings, and main drainage pipes respectively.   The Government would work out a comprehensive strategy to address the problem.  Another Member also supported that the Government should take more proactive actions to resolve the leakage and seeping problem of sewage and drainage pipes for the protection of public health.

  21.                        A Member said that the Government should mobilize the public to improve the standard of environmental hygiene and building maintenance for the prevention of SARS.  The public should take care of their own private property and it was not appropriate or viable for the Government to assume the responsibility for them.  In addition, District Council members would have a role to play in securing the community��s participation.  Mrs Yau and another Member agreed.

  22.                        Mr Leung said that the actions to be taken by the Government until the year-end to clean the common areas of old unhygienic private buildings and to collect domestic bagged refuse in old districts were very exceptional.  The purpose was to bring about an immediate improvement to public hygiene in view of the lessons learnt from the SARS outbreak.  The residents in these old buildings and districts would be responsible for maintaining the hygiene standard of their neighbourhood thereafter.  District Council members would be encouraged to mobilize the efforts at the district level to improve the community hygiene.  A Member suggested that the expenditure incurred by the Government on behalf of the owners in cleansing the common parts and rectifying the structural defects of private buildings should be recovered through, for example, the collection of rates.  It should also mobilize the public to inspect and effect repairs to the sewage and drainage pipes of their own property and bear the costs incurred. 

  23.                        Another Member suggested that the Government should set up a mechanism for the public to resort to mediation to handle disputes over leakage and seeping problems.  This would enable the concerned parties to address the problems as quickly as possible without the need to resort to lengthy and complicated legal proceedings.  For example, instead of requiring the party causing the leakage or seeping problem to pay for the repairing cost, a mechanism could be worked out to allow for all the affected parties to share out the cost.  In response, Mr Leung said that the main difficulty in handling a leakage or seeping problem was to identify the household responsible for causing the leakage or seeping.  

  24.                        The Member said that the Government should step up enforcement actions against spitting at public housing estates.  Mr Leung responded that the Housing Department would review its enforcement strategy. 

  25.                        A Member remarked that the Government should conduct a comprehensive review to see what lessons could be learnt from the SARS outbreak.  The Singapore Government was already conducting such a review. 

  26.                        Another Member suggested that the Government should encourage CSSA recipients to carry out community services to clean up the environment and contract out the cleansing of public toilets.  In response, Mr Leung said that the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) together with the Social Welfare Department had put in place an arrangement for CSSA recipients to participate in community services including refuse collection and street cleansing.  As for public toilets, FEHD had implemented a refurbishment programme and deployed an attendant to maintain the cleanliness of those public toilets which had more than 200 times of usage per day. 

  27.                        The Chairman remarked that every member of the community had a role to play in upgrading the public and environmental hygiene standard in Hong Kong so as to prevent the recurrence of outbreaks of communicable diseases in the community.  The Government should mobilize community��s participation in this regard. 

  Agenda Item 5 : Findings of and Government Responses to Recent Surveys on Prevention of Dengue Fever

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

  29.                        Addressing a Member��s question on why the monthly ovitrap index for April 2003 was much lower than the index for April 2002, Mr Law said that this might probably be due to the enhanced anti-mosquito actions taken by the various government departments and the community-wide cleansing efforts arising from the SARS outbreak.  Another Member added that this might also be due to a cooler and less rainy weather in April this year as compared with last year. 

  30.                        A Member said that the Government should encourage the community to participate in removing the mosquito breeding grounds and improving the environmental hygiene standard.  

  31.                        Another Member suggested that the Government should step up public education on the prevention of dengue fever.  In particular, seminars for school principals should be held to educate them the effective ways to prevent dengue fever in school premises.  Public education for children on the importance of maintaining a high standard of environmental hygiene should also be stepped up. 

  32.                        Dr Y Y HO said that the monthly ovitrap index for June to August was expected to increase in view of the rainy weather in these months.  He said that actions would be stepped up to clear mosquito-breeding sites and inspect potential breeding areas.  In addition, public education programmes on the importance of anti-mosquito measures would be organized for construction site mangers, teachers and representatives of Incorporated Owners and building management companies. 

  33.                        A Member said that the economy of Hong Kong was already hard hit by the SARS outbreak and could not stand another major outbreak of dengue fever.  She suggested that the Government should take strict and continuous enforcement actions against the management of construction sites for allowing the breeding of mosquitoes within their sites.  Instead of issuing summons to the management, the Government should set up a fixed and heavy penalty system so as to increase the effectiveness of the enforcement procedure and maintain deterrent effect.  Besides, it should also strengthen public education on the importance of good personal and environmental hygiene and tighten up enforcement actions to deter breaches of cleanliness offences. 

  34.                        Another Member suggested that the Government should step up actions to improve the hygiene condition of rear lanes.  It should also address the problem of water dripping of air-conditioners.  In response, Mr Leung said that there were enforcement problems in combating against nuisances caused by water dripping of air-conditioners.  It was not easy to identify the persons responsible for causing the nuisances and the existing procedure for instituting prosecutions was complicated.  The Government would look into ways to streamline the enforcement procedure.  A Member remarked that the Government should address the problem at source.  It should impose a mandatory requirement that air-conditioners had to be installed and regularly inspected by qualified technicians registered with the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department.  Another Member added that the Government should explore if fines could be imposed on the concerned management companies / Owners�� Committee / Incorporated Owners when the problem was identified at private buildings.   This would save the Government��s efforts in identifying the responsible household.

  35.                        Two Members said that the Government should ensure that the public was well aware of the area ovitrap index of their respective districts.  One Member suggested that the District Councils could be involved in the prevention of mosquito-breeding grounds in district levels.  The other added that the indexes could be widely publicized on TV. 

  36.                        A Member stressed the importance of public education in increasing the community��s awareness of the need to prevent mosquito breeding.  She considered that individual owners/residents and building management companies should be responsible for maintaining the environmental hygiene standard of their neighborhood.  As a long-term plan to upgrade the environmental hygiene standard in Hong Kong, the Government should step up civic education for primary school students.  Another Member echoed that if problems of mosquito breeding grounds and poor environmental hygiene were identified within the areas of private housing estates/buildings, the management companies/ Owners�� Committees / Incorporated Owners should be fined.  Again, continuous and strict enforcement actions should be taken against those problematic cases and a fixed penalty system should be put in place. 

  37.                        A Member suggested that the Government should target its public education efforts in the prevention of dengue fever at foreign domestic helpers and new immigrants. For example, pamphlets could be distributed to foreign domestic helpers on Saturdays and Sundays at places where they usually gathered.  In addition, the pamphlets for new immigrants available for collection at the District Offices should also include public health education on personal and environmental hygiene for the prevention of common communicable diseases.

  Agenda Item 6: Any Other Business

  38.                        There being no other business, the meeting ended at about 5:00 p.m.

   

   

Secretariat

Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene

Health, Welfare and Food Bureau

July 2003

 

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