A TOP food scientist said yesterday Nestle Dairy Farm had behaved 'irresponsibly' in continuing to operate its plant in Yuen Long without a licence.
University of Hong Kong food science lecturer Dr Steven Chen Feng said bacteria could be found in all dairy products. But there were special risks if the production factory was unlicensed.
Last night, the Regional Services Department said it had written to Tuen Mun Court seeking an early hearing on two summonses issued against Nestle for operating the plant.
If found guilty the firm could be fined $25,000 and its managers jailed for up to six months. There is also a fine of $500 for each day it continues operation without a licence.
Dr Chen said: 'When we are testing dairy products, we check for clostridium first because it is a killer bacteria.
'Bacillus is also a common bacteria which could cause diarrhoea.
'Nestle might challenge the Government for being inefficient. However, that does not mean it can simply ignore the Government and continue production. It is irresponsible behaviour.' His comments were echoed by Regional Council environmental hygiene select committee chairman Ting Yin-wah, who has been demanding improvements in the plant's ventilation and sterilisation equipment for more than two months.
Nestle said it completed the work yesterday.
'We have been telling the company to change, but they only make the alterations when the matter has drawn vast public attention,' Mr Ting said.
A Nestle spokesman said the company's quality assurance programme met the highest international food safety standards.
She said efforts by the Government to secure food samples from the plant and in the market helped to ensure the products' quality.
The Regional Services Department has stepped up examination of milk product samples at the plant and in shops. Editorial - Page 14