A plan to set up a department to monitor food safety by April is expected to be delayed after legislators expressed doubts that it could improve the monitoring of mainland and foreign suppliers. The government's proposal would see the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, and Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department restructured into the Department of Food Safety, Inspection and Quarantine and the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Hygiene. A Centre for Food Safety would be established under the new food department that would require recurrent spending of $150 million a year. The plan requires the addition of four directorate posts - including that of a permanent secretary - and 225 non-directorate posts to work in food safety. Kwok Ka-ki, the legislator for the medical sector, told a Legislative Council panel meeting on the restructuring that the government had given little information to justify the need for the additional posts. 'Officials should not see the importance of monitoring food safety as an excuse to expand their departments. Some department staff told us that they had never been consulted about the plan until today,' he said. Democrat Andrew Cheng Kar-foo was worried the restructuring would be a superficial measure to show the government was concerned about food safety, but in reality it could be a waste of resources, especially if the farms and food supply bodies on the mainland remained inaccessible to Hong Kong officials. The legislators said it was unlikely the plan would materialise by April because they wanted to talk to food safety experts. They also commissioned the council's secretariat to conduct research on food safety control mechanisms. Legislator Wong Yung-kan said there would only be about 200 staff in charge of agriculture and fisheries under the new structure. 'The plan does not seem to include a senior official overlooking ... matters. The government may as well tell us it is trying to kill the two industries.' Mr Wong also questioned the logic of splitting food safety and surveillance of agricultural and fish farms into two departments. 'How can you promote food safety if you don't teach farmers how to properly raise chickens?'