Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene

Confirmed Minutes of the Third Meeting
held at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, 14 September 2000
at Room 1007, 10/F Citibank Tower, Garden Road

Dr TSE Chi-wai, Daniel
Dr HO Dit-sang, John
Miss KI Man-fung, Leonie
Professor KWAN Hoi-shan
Mrs LAM WONG Pik-har, Grace
Dr LO Wing-lok
Mr LO Yau-lai, Winston
Mr Paul TANG
Mrs Lessie WEI
Mrs Rita LAU
Dr Margaret CHAN
Mrs Ingrid YEUNG

Acting 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 CHAN Bing-woon
Mr CHEN Shu-lin, Mark
Mr KAN Chung-nin, Tony
Mr LEE Luen-wai, John
Professor MA Ching-yung
Dr LEUNG Ding-bong, Ronald
Professor YUEN Kwok-yung

In Attendance

Environment and Food Bureau
Miss Dora FU Principal Assistant Secretary (A) 2 - agenda item 2(i)
Ms Eva TO Principal Assistant Secretary (A) 3 - agenda item 4

Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department
Dr K K LIU Assistant Director (Agriculture, Quarantine and Inspection) - agenda item 2(i)

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department
Miss Janet WONG Deputy Director (Administration and Development) - agenda item 4
Dr P Y LEUNG Deputy Director (Food and Public Health) - agenda items 2 and 3
Dr Mabel YEUNG Acting Assistant Director (Food Surveillance and Control) - agenda item 3
Miss Linda LAW Senior Administrative Officer (Food and Public Health) - agenda items 2 and 3
Mr YUEN Sun-on Senior Superintendent (Food Surveillance and Certification) - agenda item 3
Dr Thomas SIT Senior Veterinary Officer (Food and Public Health) - agenda item 2(i)

Department of Health
Dr L Y TSE Consultant (Community Medicine)  

Opening Remarks

The Chairman congratulated Dr LO Wing-lok for being elected as a member of Legislative Council. He then welcomed the new Secretary, Mrs Ingrid YEUNG.

Agenda Item 1: Confirmation of minutes of last meeting

  1. The Chairman said that on the day of the meeting, the Secretariat received a Member's proposal to insert the following sentence after the first sentence of paragraph 44 of the minutes of last meeting -

    "A Member proposed that a system for monitoring the degree of instituting HACCP in food premises should be set up since HACCP was the key pro-active measure in the maintenance of food hygiene."

Members agreed and the minutes were confirmed subject to the amendment proposed by that Member.

Agenda Item 2: Matters arising from minutes of last meeting

(i) Further Submission on Proposed New Regulation to Control the Feeding of Drugs and Chemicals to Food Animals (ACFEH Paper 8/2000 and Supplement)

  1. The Chairman explained that this item was a follow up to paragraph 22 of the minutes of last meeting. The paper, prepared by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), set out the chemicals to be prohibited or restricted under the proposed regulation. It also had a supplement listing the legislative provisions controlling chemical residues in other countries. He invited Dr Liu to introduce the paper.

  2. Dr Liu advised the meeting that in the first phase, seven drugs would be prohibited from use in food animals. These drugs belonged to three categories, namely, beta-agonists, antibiotics and synthetic hormones. The use of another 37 chemicals would be allowed in food animals, but maximum residue limits must be observed. He then referred to the legislative provisions in other countries and pointed out that these countries all have similar provisions banning the importation of contaminated food animals and their products.

  3. The Chairman invited Members' views on the Administration's further submission. A Member asked if the proposed local standards were in line with the Mainland ones. Dr Liu answered in the affirmative. He said that AFCD maintained a close working relationship with the State Administration for Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine and had discussions on the standards of the two places.

  4. The meeting agreed to the Administration's proposal.

(ii) Additional Proposed Amendment to Food Labelling Requirements

  1. The Chairman explained that this item was a follow up to paragraphs 24 to 34 of the minutes of last meeting. The Administration intended to introduce one more amendment in addition to the three amendments proposed at the last meeting. He asked Dr Leung to brief Members on the additional amendment.

  2. Dr Leung said that at present, prepackaged food with an alcoholic strength over 1.2% were exempted from all labelling requirements. Beer was one of the items being exempted. However, the beer trade proposed that beer should also be subject to the requirement for indicating "best before" date as its quality would deteriorate with time. After considering the practice in other countries and the guidelines issued by Codex Alimentarius Commission, the Administration proposed to remove the current exemption. Nevertheless, prepackaged drinks with more than 10% alcoholic strength should still be exempted from the requirement on labelling of minimum durability as the quality of such products would not be affected even if they were kept for a very long time.

  3. The Chairman asked if there was any beer with more than 10% alcoholic strength. Dr Leung replied in the affirmative. However, most beers only had an alcoholic strength of less than 10%.

  4. Dr Ho asked if the quality of drinks with an alcoholic strength of more than 10% could be kept indefinitely. Dr Leung said that the quality of such products could generally be maintained for a long period. Drawing a line at 10% was also consistent with international standards.

  5. A Member asked for the minimum durability period that the Administration would suggest for beers. Dr Leung said this should best be determined by the manufacturers. Generally the durability period of beers was around 90 days.

  6. The meeting agreed to the Administration's proposal and noted that the Government would consult the food trade on the proposed amendments.

Agenda Item 3: Food Surveillance - An Overview (ACFEH Paper 9/2000)

  1. The Chairman recalled that results of the food surveillance programme for the first half of 2000 had been issued to Members on 14 August. Members could raise questions on the results after the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department's (FEHD) presentation on the food surveillance programme.

  2. Dr Yeung presented the paper. She highlighted the objective of the food surveillance programme which was to assess whether the food under surveillance was fit for human consumption and its compliance with food labelling requirements. In future, FEHD would enhance risk assessment to facilitate more targeted food sampling. More efforts would also be directed to risk communication to enable the public to make informed choices.

  3. The Chairman noted that the local sampling rate of eight samples per 1 000 population per annum was well above the general international reference of three samples. He expressed his appreciation of Government's efforts in food surveillance. He asked for the sampling rate of advanced countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

  4. Dr Leung said that the United Kingdom's sampling rate was around three samples per 1 000 population per annum. Dr Chan supplemented that the benchmark of three samples per 1 000 population was recommended by an overseas consultant based on other countries' practices. Over the past several years, the sampling rate in Hong Kong had always exceeded this recommended level because Hong Kong relied heavily on imported food which could only be controlled by way of end-product inspection. However, she reminded Members that it was not simply a case of the higher the number of samples the better. Food safety had to be achieved by many different means. For instance, control at source was a critical element. She opined that given the relatively low unsatisfactory rate of food tested, there might be a need to consider re-directing resources to other food safety aspects.

  5. The Chairman thanked Dr Chan for the useful advice. A Member shared the view that testing should be targeted at food items that warranted attention.

  6. A Member asked for the unsatisfactory rates in other countries. Dr Chan said that a direct comparison of unsatisfactory rates might not be meaningful. The important point was whether follow-up action was taken on food surveillance results. She quoted the example of E.coli O157:H7. In Hong Kong, when surveillance results indicated that E.coli O157:H7 was found in meat, immediate actions were taken to prevent the meat from entering the market. The public was also reminded to cook meat thoroughly. This had prevented a serious food incident.

  7. Mrs Lau added that the sampling rate of eight had been maintained for a number of years. She said that import control was also important for ensuring safety of food. Now that the current food surveillance programme had been well established, FEHD would place additional emphasis on new areas such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), risk assessment and risk communication.

  8. The Chairman noted that the unsatisfactory rate of food samples was constantly decreasing. He asked the Administration how were the continuous improvements achieved.

  9. Mrs Lau said that there were many factors contributing to successful food safety control. Public education was very crucial. To enable the community to know their food better, FEHD had published a number of risk assessment reports on high-risk and seasonal food items.

  10. The Chairman asked if there were any adverse reactions from the moon cake producers after the release of the related risk assessment report. Mrs Lau said that before preparing the report, FEHD staff had inspected the moon cake factories and helped the trade to make improvements by introducing the concept of HACCP. Response from the trade was positive because they felt that Government was working with them to enhance food safety. A Member asked if there was any warning period before the inspections. Mrs Lau said that inspections were made without prior notice.

  11. Dr Leung supplemented that FEHD had provided much assistance to the food trade in improving their food safety standard. For example, FEHD issued codes of practice for manufacturers of high-risk food items such as sushi and sashimi. Newsletters were also issued to the trade and the public to enhance their awareness of the importance of food safety.

  12. A Member said that it was important to give precise health advice to the public. For example, listeria monocytogenes might not cause symptoms in healthy adults but could have serious effects on pregnant women. The health advice should then be focused on pregnant women. This would prevent unnecessary public alarm.

Agenda Item 4: Any other business

  1. The Chairman said that to enable Members to plan their schedules, the Secretariat had proposed the dates for future meetings. They were listed below:
                  2 November 2000
18 January 2001
1 March 2001

As usual, meetings would be held at 2:30 p.m.

  1. He asked if Members had any other issues to raise. A Member asked about the harmonization of food safety standards between Hong Kong and the Mainland. He said that the Hong Kong standard on coliform in milk was more stringent than that of the Mainland. In response, Mrs Lau said that in formulating local standards, FEHD would consider the Mainland standards besides internationally recognized ones.

  2. A Member asked if the proposed visits to Government Laboratory and a food factory implementing HACCP were still on. The Chairman said the Secretariat would consult Members on the dates after the meeting.

  3. There being no other issues, the meeting ended at 4:15 p.m.

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