Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene

Confirmed Minutes of the First Meeting held at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 9 May 2000 at Room 150,
1/F Central Government Offices, East Wing, Lower Albert Road

Dr TSE Chi-wai, Daniel
Mr CHAN Bing-woon
Mr CHEN Shu-lin, Mark
Dr HO Dit-sang, John
Mr KAN Chung-nin, Tony
Miss KI Man-fung, Leonie
Professor KWAN Hoi-shan
Mrs LAM WONG Pik-har, Grace
Mr LEE Luen-wai, John
Dr LEUNG Ding-bong, Ronald
Dr LO Wing-lok
Professor MA Ching-yung
Professor YUEN Kwok-yung
Mrs Lily YAM
Mrs Lessie WEI
Mrs Rita LAU
Dr Margaret CHAN

Secretary for the Environment and Food
Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation
Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene
Director of Health

Absent with Apologies

Mr LO Yau-lai, Winston

In Attendance

Environment and Food Bureau
Mr Paul TANG
Miss Pamela LAM
     Deputy Secretary (A)
     Assistant Secretary (A)1A

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

Dr Gloria TAM
Miss Linda LAW
     Deputy Director (Food and Public Health)
     Assistant Director (Food Surveillance and Control)
     Consultant(Community Medicine)(Risk Assessment and Communication)
     Senior Administrative Officer(Food and Public Health)

Department of Health

Dr K H MAK      Consultant (Community Medicine)

Opening Remarks

The Chairman welcomed all Members and government representatives to the meeting. Members noted the terms of reference of the Advisory Council which were -

  1. to consider and advise on policies relating to food safety and environmental hygiene and to monitor their implementation;
  2. to advise on regulatory standards relating to food quality and food composition;
  3. to receive reports on the handling of major food incidents; and
  4. to advise on community education programmes for promoting public understanding of food safety and public responsibility for environmental hygiene.
  1. The Chairman highlighted the importance of promoting community education in improving food safety and environmental hygiene.

  2. As Mrs Lily YAM had not yet arrived because of other commitments, Members agreed to defer the agenda item on "Introductory Remarks by the Secretary for the Environment and Food" until her arrival.

Agenda Item 1: Proposed Method of Operation of Advisory Council

  1. The Chairman highlighted the following main points in the paper -
  1. the Advisory Council would normally meet bimonthly;
  2. papers would be issued in English, while the meetings would normally be conducted in Cantonese. If expatriates were present, simultaneous interpretation would be arranged;
  3. meetings would be held closed door but the agenda, non-confidential papers and minutes would be uploaded to the Environment and Food Bureau's website after the meeting;
  4. decision would be made by consensus or voting. The Chairman or member presiding would have an original vote and a casting vote if the votes were equal;
  5. working groups could be set up to study specific subjects; and
  6. Members should disclose to the Chairman any direct personal or pecuniary interest in any matter under consideration before the relevant discussion.

Members noted that the proposed method of operation was very similar to that of other boards and councils. The proposal was agreed.

Agenda Item 2: Food Safety Control in Hong Kong - An Overview

  1. Dr Gloria TAM made a presentation on food safety control by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD). She highlighted the new proactive risk-based approach which sought to prevent food incidents at source and promote partnership among the food trade, the consumers and Government.

[Mrs Yam arrived at this point and made introductory remarks as summarized in paragraph 12 below. Discussion on this agenda item was resumed after Mrs Yam spoke.]

  1. Dr P Y LEUNG supplemented that FEHD's work in enhancing food safety was built upon the earlier work of Department of Health (DH) and Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD) since the 1990s. As a result of the reorganization of municipal services, more resources had been devoted to this area.
  2. A Member asked about the criteria which FEHD adopted in selecting food samples for testing. In response, Dr TAM said that samples were chosen based on the risks associated with different kinds of food. For example, during the high seasons for growth of toxic algae, more samples of coral reef fish would be taken for ciguatoxin testing.

  3. In response to the Chairman's query, Dr Gloria TAM said that the "8 samples per 1000 population per annum" quoted in the paper were drawn from a wide mix of food. Usually, FEHD would take some 56 000 food samples for testing each year.

  4. A Member appreciated the importance of risk communication in food safety control. He asked if the previous food complaint system of the two Municipal Councils still existed after the establishment of FEHD. Dr P Y LEUNG replied in the affirmative. He advised that members of the public could call FEHD's hotline at 2868 0000. Dr Margaret CHAN added that if some food complaints were mistakenly directed to DH, DH would refer the cases to FEHD promptly. The two departments had very good co-ordination in this regard.

  5. A Member opined that with the new developments in food science, the local food safety laws needed to be updated to meet the community's needs. For example, some of the subsidiary legislation could be consolidated or streamlined. With increasing public concern about food labelling, he thought that the subject should be regulated by separate legislation rather than being subsumed under the existing Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) Regulations. In addition, there was a need to introduce new provisions on nutrition labelling.

  6. In response, Dr P Y LEUNG said that FEHD had set up a division to review food safety related legislation. One of the priority areas of the review was food labelling requirements.

Agenda Item 3: Introductory Remarks by the Secretary for the Environment and Food

  1. At the Chairman's invitation, Mrs Lily YAM made a few short introductory remarks. She thanked the Chairman for taking up the chairmanship of the Advisory Council in spite of his very busy schedule. She said that following the dissolution of the two Provisional Municipal Councils (PMCs), the Advisory Council played an important role in providing both professional advice and expert views in dealing with food safety and environmental hygiene issues. She had no doubt that Members would build upon the foundation laid by the former PMCs and DH in reviewing and enhancing food safety control in Hong Kong. She hoped that through enhanced education, publicity and public participation programmes, the community's awareness of food safety and environmental hygiene would increase.

Agenda Item 4: An Introduction to Genetically Modified Food

  1. Dr Y Y HO presented the paper. A Member asked for more details about the labelling requirements adopted by different countries. In response, Dr P Y LEUNG and Dr Y Y HO explained that in the United States and Canada, only genetically modified (GM) foods which were substantially different from their traditional counterparts were required to be labelled. In the European Union, if any ingredient of a food contained any ingredient with more than 1% GM content, the food would need to be labelled. In Korea, the threshold would be set at 5%. Japan did not set any threshold for GM ingredients. Under Japan's proposed legislation, if any of the top three ingredients of the food constituting more than 5% of the food's weight contained any GM content, the food had to be labelled.

  2. The Chairman said that FEHD would submit a proposal on the regulation and labelling of GM foods for Members' consideration before the end of this year, to be followed by consultation with the trade and the public.

Agenda Item 5: Proposed Work Programme for 2000

  1. Mr Paul TANG briefed Members on the proposed work programme of the Advisory Council in 2000. In response to the Chairman, A Member explained that the objective of the Open Categorisation Scheme for restaurants introduced by the former PMCs was to encourage food premises to improve environmental hygiene. The criteria for grading was made clear to all stakeholders. In view of some food incidents related to restaurants with "five-star grading", he agreed that a review was necessary. Mrs Rita LAU supplemented that when the scheme was first introduced last year, the original intention of the PMCs was to review it in one year's time.

Agenda Item 6: Any other business

  1. In order to familiarize Members with Government's work on food safety and environmental hygiene, the Secretary said visits could be arranged for Members to certain relevant facilities. He recommended the first visit to be arranged in the morning of either 3 June or 24 June to Man Kam To Food Control Office.

  2. Depending on Members' interest and preference, visits could be arranged later to other facilities, including the Government Laboratory, Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse, Western Wholesale Food Market and environmental hygiene facilities such as a refuse transfer station and a public market.
  3. A Member suggested that besides visiting the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse, Members could also visit the Tsuen Wan Slaughterhouse which used less advanced equipment. Another Member suggested a visit be paid to food premises which had implemented Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP).

  4. The Secretary would contact Members after the meeting concerning the arrangements for the visits.

Agenda Item 7: Date of Next Meeting

  1. The next meeting was tentatively scheduled to be held at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, 6 July 2000. The Chairman said that, if possible, future meetings would be held on Thursday afternoons.

  2. There being no other issues, the meeting was ended at 5:30 p.m.

Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene
Environment and Food Bureau
July 2000