Secretary vows to strengthen controls, assures Hongkongers they 'don't need to worry too much' The government yesterday admitted there are loopholes in the monitoring system guarding the safety of vegetables and pledged to strengthen it. Permanent Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Carrie Yau Tsang Ka-lai said a small quantity of vegetables from local farms were not tested before going to the markets. 'There are some loopholes [under the current system] and we'll do follow-ups to ensure even small providers will not skip the safety controls,' Mrs Yau said. Vegetable Marketing Organisation general manager Edward Lai Kwok-yan admitted that only half the city's vegetables, whether from local farms or the mainland, were distributed to retail outlets through his organisation, which conducted random checks on the produce. While the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department also tests vegetables from the mainland at the border, some local farms, especially small ones, sell direct to consumers or retail outlets without going through any tests. A Greenpeace report issued on Monday said banned pesticides and excessive chemical residues were found in vegetables sold in the two main supermarket chains. 'It's impossible to make sure that 100 per cent of the vegetables are tested before they go to the markets,' Mrs Yau said. Hong Kong followed the standards set by the World Health Organisation, she said. With the government's existing safety controls at the border, and checks by wholesalers and retailers, 'people don't need to worry too much'. 'The government will investigate whether we'll require local farms to get registered or we should further enhance our monitoring system,' she said. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said it was trying to trace the source of the contaminated vegetables found by Greenpeace and had contacted the supermarkets for supplier details. The department had also contacted mainland authorities and said the test results of Greenpeace had yet to be analysed. The department's assistant director in charge of food surveillance and control, Thomas Chung Wai-hung, said the department tested 20,000 vegetable samples last year and the city had a comprehensive system for inspecting imported vegetables. 'All vegetables from the mainland are from registered markets... Documentation is needed when they are imported,' he said. 'We also conduct tests at the Man Kam To border as well as at wholesaler and retailer level. We are satisfied with the overall situation.' No food poisoning related to pesticides had been reported this year, he said. Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department assistant director Liu Kwei-kin said measures were in place to ensure the quality of locally grown vegetables. ParknShop yesterday confirmed the pak choi with excessive levels of pesticide residue and tomatoes with banned pesticides in Greenpeace's report were imported from the mainland.