ACFEH Paper 61
9 March 2006
Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene
Demerit Points System for Licensed Food Premises
This paper briefs Members on the proposals to revamp the Demerit Points System (DPS) for licensed food premises.
2. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has been operating a DPS in respect of licensed food premises, which aims to deter food business operators from breaching legislative provisions on food safety and environmental hygiene under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132) and its subsidiary legislations. Under the DPS �V
(a) a number of demerit points of 15, 10 and 5 respectively (depending on the nature and severity of the offence) will be registered against a licensee on conviction of an offence;
(b) the prescribed demerit points for a particular offence will be doubled and trebled respectively if the same offence is committed for the second and the third time within a period of 12 months;
(c) a licence will be suspended for 7 days if 15 demerit points are accumulated within a period of 12 months (first suspension);
(d) the licence will be suspended for 14 days if another 15 demerit points are accumulated within a period of 12 months from the date of the last offence leading to the first suspension (second suspension); and
(e) the licence will be cancelled if another 15 demerit points are accumulated within a period of 12 months from the date of the last offence leading to the second suspension.
3. Team Clean��s ��Report on Measures to Improve Environmental Hygiene in Hong Kong�� published in August 2003 recommends that FEHD should critically review the existing DPS, both in terms of its overall mechanism and the number of demerit points assigned to individual offences, to enhance its effectiveness. In particular, it is proposed that the DPS should be revamped to provide for a 21-day suspension of licence on accumulating the requisite number of points for the first time, and cancellation of licence for the second time.
4. In reviewing the DPS for licensed food premises, the following factors have been taken into account �V
(a) demerit points reflecting degree of food safety/public hygiene risks: at present, the number of demerit points some offences carry do not reflect the degree of risks associated. For example, the same demerit points are accorded to knowingly suffering or permitting the presence of rats or insects in the premises and placing furniture/equipment which obstructs cleaning;
(b) penalty reflecting severity of offences: under the existing mechanism, the doubling and trebling of demerit points for repeated convictions may result in the same sanction against a licensee who has committed a minor offence twice and a licensee who has committed a serious offence plus a minor offence. This is because demerit points registered against a licensee under the present doubling and trebling system may not reflect the severity of the offences committed; and
(c) changes in legislation: the DPS schedule was last updated in July 2001. Legislative amendments introduced thereafter are not reflected in the current DPS, e.g. amendments to the Food Business Regulation on the control of avian influenza.
5. Having taken into account the recommendations of Team Clean in paragraph 3 and considerations in paragraph 4, we plan to introduce the following changes to the DPS for licensed food premises to streamline the mechanism and enhance its effectiveness �V
(a) offences will be classified into four groups (each with corresponding demerit points of 15, 10, 5 and 3) to better reflect the degree of food safety/public hygiene risks posed by each of these offences. More demerit points will be accorded to offences that carry high food safety/public hygiene risks, e.g. sale of milk imported from or frozen confections obtained from unapproved source of manufacture. Demerit points accorded to offences with less food safety/public hygiene risks will be reduced, e.g. unauthorized minor alteration to the approved layout plan. The proposed schedule of demerit points assigned to individual offences is at the Annex;
(b) repeated convictions, however, will no longer result in doubling or trebling of demerit points in order to simplify the existing DPS mechanism;
(c) the DPS schedule will be updated with new offences added;
(d) similar to the existing DPS, the accumulation of 15 demerit points within a period of 12 months will result in suspension of a licence. To enhance deterrence, the suspension period will be extended from 7 to 21 days as recommended by Team Clean; and
(e) in line with Team Clean��s recommendation, there will no longer be any second suspension. If another 15 demerit points are accumulated within 12 months from the date of the offence leading to the licence suspension, the licence will be cancelled.
6. We will consult the food trade and the LegCo Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene on the proposals. We will take into consideration the views received when finalising the proposals for implementation.
7. Members are invited to comment on the proposals in paragraph 5 above.
Health, Welfare and Food Bureau
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department