More melamine testing means fewer eggs in city

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 November, 2008, 12:00am

Eggs will remain in short supply for some time, as mainland authorities step up tests for melamine, Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok has said.

The supply of mainland eggs was down about 70 per cent yesterday.

Dr Chow acknowledged there would be a temporary shortage and it was difficult to say for how long. 'The central authorities have indicated that they would like to ensure the food supply in Hong Kong is safe, particularly that egg supplies are melamine-free.'

He said suppliers had to be very careful to screen the source of eggs before they were imported to Hong Kong. 'This will be a temporary arrangement and certainly it will result in a temporary shortage as well.'

Mainland eggs come from different provinces and areas.

Dr Chow also said supplies from other countries had been increased.

At a meeting of the Legislative Council's health services panel, legislators pressed the government on its plans for better surveillance and food safety strategy as melamine was not detected by the normal process.

'Up to now, the administration has not shown it has an assessment system and other mechanisms in place to ensure food safety,' said Albert Chan Wai-yip, of the League of Social Democrats.

The Centre for Food Safety said it had completed the first stage of melamine testing of food products, which included eggs, fish and chilled chicken and beef. This week, the centre would start testing live chickens and pigs, said Undersecretary for Food and Health Gabriel Leung.

Meanwhile, the new Centralised Organ Donation Register will be launched on November 24. It will offer online registration and be accessible to transplant co-ordinators. The Department of Health and the Medical Association developed the register to provide an easy means for individuals to voluntarily register to donate organs after death.

Consent is being sought from 40,000 donors who signed up with the association to be registered in the new database.

The panel also supported a proposal to inject HK$1 billion into the Samaritan Fund, amid an increase in patients seeking assistance for expensive drugs and treatment.

Expenditure from the fund, which helps patients pay for drugs that are not covered by government subsidy, has surged by 185 per cent from HK$47.3 million in 2003-04 to HK$134.8 million in 2007-08.

The fund is projected to reach HK$64 million by the end of March, down from HK$221 million in 2006, without the grant.