Food laws are outdated or non-existent, says safety expert Health experts advising the government on food safety yesterday urged officials to update laws to regulate residual chemicals in fish and the use of pesticides in vegetables. But health minister York Chow Yat-ngok told legislators earlier that control of safety standards in vegetables was not a priority. Speaking after the Committee on Food Safety held a second meeting, chairman Kwan Hoi-shan said residual chemicals in fish and pesticides in vegetables needed to be looked at as current regulations were outdated or non-existent. The committee was most concerned about fish after recent scares involving the fungicide malachite green and the antibiotic nitrofuran, Professor Kwan said. 'There are laws but they are not clear and are difficult to enforce. We suggested legislation to state the standards clearly ... or write in non-existent standards. Updated laws will make [safety standards] easier to enforce.' Professor Kwan said current laws did state that substances harmful to health were banned but there were no specific categories for some. 'The current law does not cover pesticides at all. It would be better to have a list to see what levels of substances in food would be harmful.' The committee hopes the government will draw up standards with reference to guidelines by international food safety committees. Dr Chow said controls on fruits and vegetables would not be a top priority for the government as they were considered low-risk areas compared with meat and milk. He told legislators that importers of fruit and vegetables may have to register at the Centre for Food Safety under the same plan being implemented for eggs to enhance food safety. But Dr Chow said there was no timetable for such a system and that the registration of vegetable importers would depend on how the egg scheme worked out. The egg-importing system is being put in place after a scare in which mainland eggs were found to be contaminated with the cancer-causing Sudan Red dye. Democratic Party legislator Fred Li Wah-ming said the government should still consider controls on fruits and vegetables 'because we are hearing a lot of horrible stories'. 'On the mainland, more than half of strawberries have excessive lead content and there are no regulations on the use of pesticides.' Meanwhile, tests on 10 freshwater fish samples showed they were all free from the malachite green and two antibiotics, nitrofuran and chloramphenicol. The samples were taken following the resumption of mainland freshwater fish supplies to Hong Kong.