Food authorities are looking at a new quarantine system which would allow them to pinpoint swiftly the source of contaminated meat imports. Agriculture and Fisheries Department officials said mainland authorities had agreed to improve inspection of pigs and cattle. Acting assistant director Dr Les Sims told a Provisional Urban Council sub-committee meeting yesterday that the SAR was lobbying Beijing for reform. Dr Sims said the new system could not succeed without central government co-ordination, because meat was imported from throughout the mainland. At present, imported livestock carried health certificates issued by mainland trade authorities if they were proved clinically healthy and reared by licensed farms. Department director Lessie Wei Chui Kit-yee is in Beijing discussing ways to improve co-operation. Seventeen people have reportedly fallen ill after eating offal from pigs fed with the anti-asthma drug clenbuterol. The use of clenbuterol in animal feed is banned in China and the drug is banned from all use in Hong Kong. Similar symptoms struck six people in the Guangdong city of Gaoming last month, mainland sources confirmed. A Gaoming City People's Hospital nurse said it was not known whether pig offal had caused the illnesses. At a public health select committee meeting yesterday, members also urged the Government to set up a food safety agency to co-ordinate responsibilities now shared by the two municipal councils, the Agriculture and Fisheries Department and the Department of Health. 'We cannot rely solely on the health inspection conducted by the mainland authorities,' said committee member Wong Kwok-hing. Assistant director of health Dr Gloria Tam Lai-fan said the Government was tracing the source of the contaminated offal and could not say when the sales ban would be lifted. Members were told tougher laws against unlicensed food premises had been delayed because the Provisional Regional Council had reservations about amendments to the laws. Members said the Urban Council should go it alone if it could not reach an agreement. It wants legal changes allowing it to close illegal food premises.