The most basic expectation we can have of our government is that it ensures that the food we buy is safe. With the list of products contaminated by tainted milk from the mainland growing ever longer, it is clear that the safeguards in place are insufficient. It is good that authorities have recognised the shortcomings and want to quickly implement a law allowing the recall of items suspected of being harmful and, if tests are conclusive, their destruction. As worthy as the ideas are in principle, though, time has to be taken when drafting the legislation to ensure that those involved in the food chain are not unfairly treated. A recall can be ordered at present only after government tests prove that an item is harmful. Other governments and private entities may already have determined it to be unsafe. During the two days needed for analysis, it can still be sold. Our system needs to be changed; this is clearly not in our interests. While ridding shops and markets of potentially harmful food has to be a government priority, it and legislators need to think through which official tests should be recognised. Governments have different standards and vary on which ingredients are a health risk. The tests by a company of its rivals' products may not be reliable. Those done on behalf of a consumer group or media organisation could well be of a higher or lower benchmark. These are matters that need to be considered. There should similarly be debate about whether food that is found to be hazardous should be destroyed. Our system does not allow for this at present. Once recalled, items can be shipped elsewhere for resale. Permanently removing goods deemed to contain dangerous additives may at first seem reasonable. It should be realised, though, that what is deemed dangerous in one society can be viewed differently elsewhere. Our government already has a good food-testing regime. With so many products in the world, though, it does not have the resources to fully test each and every one that is imported for every known substance. No authority can hope to do this. In a globalised world where stresses and strains are being put on certain markets, we need a backup strategy. Laws giving us that flexibility are necessary. Hong Kong's health depends on the food we eat. We expect that what is allowed to be sold here is safe from the farm to the point of final sale. Each new food scandal hits our confidence in the regulations in place. Officials should move briskly on with their plans for recalls - but in doing so, take care in the details.