Legislative panel to study draft law A food recall bill will be tabled with the legislature for first and second readings early next month, said a government source. The source, who is close to the Food and Health Bureau, said the bill would first be tabled with the Legislative Council's food safety and environmental hygiene panel for discussion tomorrow. It will then go before all lawmakers at a council meeting on November 5. The source said it was not yet known when the law would come into effect, and this would depend on the progress of the legislation. Under the proposed law, the director of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department would be able to ban the import and supply of any food product and order a recall of suspect products. The source said an order would be made only if the director had reasonable grounds to believe it was 'necessary to prevent or reduce a possibility of danger to public health, or to mitigate any adverse consequence of a danger to public health'. He said the department would not abuse its power. The director would consider a number of factors when making a decision to recall products, including the results of tests by local and overseas food safety authorities, relevant information provided by food traders, and the statutory standards concerning substances in food. The government would study each case individually to decide whether to issue food alerts to the public and whether to ban the sale of a particular batch of food, food produced at a specific plant, all food products of a particular brand, or types of food products from a specific country, he said. The orders would specify the period over which the import and supply of the food would be banned and when a recall had to be conducted, the source said. Offenders would be liable to a fine of up to HK$100,000 and up to a year in jail. The source said he thought the penalities were not too lenient. Anyone bound by an order and dissatisfied with it would be able to appeal to the Municipal Services Appeals Board in the two weeks after it came into effect, he said. The source said the government would not compensate for the loss suffered by food traders or importers whose products were found to be unsafe. But if the court ruled that an order made by the director was unjustified, the government would compensate claimants up to the then-market value of the food concerned. Meanwhile, the Centre for Food Safety yesterday found that a sample of Munchy's Original Sugar Crackers, manufactured in Malaysia and bearing an expiry date of July 15 next year, contained four parts per million of melamine, 1.5ppm more than the legal limit. Hospital Authority figures released showed that 349 children yesterday had free kidney check-ups at 18 public clinics following fears over tainted milk products.