Health chiefs may set up food safety advice group

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2005, 12:00am

Health officials said last night they would consider setting up a committee to advise the government on food safety issues.

The Health, Welfare and Food Bureau disclosed this in a statement after rejecting calls for the establishment of an independent statutory body to oversee food safety problems.

A bureau spokesman said it was considering setting up an advisory committee comprising medical and veterinary experts, food scientists, nutritionists and academics.

They are expected to provide advice on setting food standards and conducting research on food safety.

The spokesman said legislators would be consulted before any plan was implemented.

After recent food scares, the Action Group on Medical Policy, a health lobby group, had called for an independent food safety authority answering directly to the chief executive.

But the government said food safety regulatory functions should be performed by a government department. It said both the Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in the US and the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority in Singapore were government agencies.

Meanwhile, the director of food and environmental hygiene, Gregory Leung Wing-lup, returns today after a three-day trip to inspect hairy crabs in Suzhou , Jiangsu province .

Mr Leung has met officials from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. He also visited hairy crab farms.

A spokeswoman for Mr Leung said: 'The visit is mainly to have a better understanding on how hairy crabs are raised and their inspection before they reach Hong Kong.'

Media reports from Taiwan earlier alleged that a hairy crab imported from the mainland was found to contain 10 times the safe level of chloramphenicol, an antibiotic that can cause liver damage.