Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene

Confirmed Minutes of the Tenth Meeting
held at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, 1 November 2001
at Room 1007, 10/F Citibank Tower, Garden Road


Dr TSE Chi-wai, Daniel (Chairman)
Mr CHAN Bing-woon  
Dr HO Dit-sang, John
Mr Peter HUNG
Dr Anthony Edward JAMES
Mr KAN Chung-nin, Tony
Miss Leonie KI
Professor KWAN Hoi-shan
Mrs LAM WONG Pik-har, Grace
Dr Ronald LEUNG
Mr Eddy LI
Dr the Hon LO Wing-lok
Mr LO Yau-lai, Winston
Professor MA Ching-yung
Professor YUEN Kwok-yung
Mrs Lily YAM Secretary for the Environment and Food
Mrs Lessie WEI Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation
Mrs Rita LAU Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene
Dr Margaret CHAN Director of Health
Ms Priscilla TO Acting Secretary

Absent with Apologies

Mr LEE Luen-wai, John

In Attendance

Environment and Food Bureau

Mrs Stella HUNG Deputy Secretary for the Environment and Food

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

Dr S P MAK Deputy Director (Food and Public Health)
Dr Y Y HO Consultant (Community Medicine)
(Risk Assessment and Communication)

Government Laboratory

Mr S Y KWAN Chief Chemist

Department of Health

Dr L Y TSE Consultant (Community Medicine)

Opening Remarks

The Chairman welcomed Members to the meeting.

Agenda Item 1: Confirmation of Minutes of Last Meeting

2. Members confirmed the minutes of the last meeting

Agenda Item 2 : Matters arising from Minutes of Last Meeting

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

Agenda Item 3: Microbiological guidelines for ready-to-eat food

4. The Chairman said that the purpose of the paper was to inform Members of the Microbiological Guidelines for Ready-to-eat Food prepared by the Expert Panel on Microbiological Safety of FEHD. Dr Y Y HO presented the paper.

5. Upon a Member's query, Dr Y Y HO said that any food items of which the quality belonged to Class C were considered unsatisfactory though these food items could still be consumed. FEHD would take appropriate follow-up actions in respect of such items to see whether there was any breakdown in hygienic practices during food processing. Addressing Mrs Yam's question, Dr Y Y HO said that most of the food items for sale in the market belonged to Class A or B.

6. A Member asked whether the authority would take enforcement actions in respect of food items with a more than acceptable Aerobic Colony Count (ACC) or containing any pathogen. Mrs Lau replied that FEHD would take appropriate follow-up actions on a case-by-case basis. It should be noted that microbiological standards had only been set in legislation for a limited number of food items including frozen confection and milk.

7. Another Member asked why food items with very high ACC or E. coli (total) were not classified under Class D. Mrs Lau and Dr Y Y HO clarified that food items were classified under Class D if they were potentially hazardous to human health and unfit for human consumption. Since ACC only indicated the sanitary quality of foods, food items which had very high ACC but did not contain any pathogen would not be classified as Class D items. Some Members suggested that since Class C food items were still considered fit for human consumption, considerations should be given to whether the word "unsatisfactory" should be used to describe the microbiological status of such food.

8. A Member explained that E. Coli was commonly used as a surrogate indicator and its presence in food generally indicated direct or indirect faecal contamination. The main objective of using bacteria as indicators was to reflect the hygienic quality of food.

9. Another Member said that as the guidelines were mainly intended for the food trade's reference rather than for the general public, the wording used for the classification of microbiological quality might not be a major issue of concern. He remarked that ACC was employed to indicate the sanitary quality of foods whereas the limits of food pathogens were employed to indicate the safety of foods. The two components of microbiological limits reflected two different aspects of food conditions.

Agenda Item 4 : Food safety survey

10. The Chairman said that the purpose of the paper was to inform Members of the findings of a public opinion survey commissioned by FEHD to collect views of the public on food safety-related issues.

11. Noting that 43.1% and 41.2% of the respondents considered that the primary responsibility of ensuring food safety at homes rested with the government and the food suppliers respectively, Dr Chan suggested that more efforts should be made to educate the public the importance of proper food handling by individuals at home. A Member concurred. Another Member added that public education though the mass media would be the most effective means to convey the message to the public.

Agenda Item 5: Any Other Business

12. Dr L Y TSE gave a verbal report on the cases of cholera occurred since May of 2001. Cholera was endemic in Hong Kong and usually attacked in Summer. A total of 37 cases of cholera were reported from May to mid October 2001, of which 13 were imported cases. As compared with previous years, the situation was not particularly alarming. Persons affected included 17 males and 20 females aged from 12 to 91 years old. Most of the local cases were caused by Vibrio cholerae O1 Inaba whereas the imported cases by Vibrio cholerae O1 Ogawa. The patients mainly contracted the disease through consumption of raw or not thoroughly cooked seafood, or through cross-contamination of seafood due to unhygienic environment at home or food premises. FEHD and the Department of Health had worked together to investigate the cases and stepped up public education to remind the public of the importance of food, personal and environmental hygiene.

Date of next meeting

13. The next meeting would tentatively be held on 3 January 2002.

14. There being no other issues, the meeting ended at 4:50 p.m.

Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene
Environment and Food Bureau
March 2002