Muslim patients in the four New Territories West hospitals run by the Hospital Authority can now choose halal meals. Halal meals are those prepared according to Islamic law. Ingredients such as pork and alcohol are forbidden and meats must have been slaughtered according to religious guidelines. Since the scheme's launch in September, about 300 such meals have been served at the four hospitals - Tuen Mun, Castle Peak, Pok Oi and Siu Lam. Vivian Wong Tze-kwan, co-ordinator for the Hospital Authority's New Territories West Cluster, said they had seen that there were some ethnic minorities, and that they had special needs. 'Noting their difference in dietary culture, we decided to introduce a halal meal set,' she said. The recipes, cooking process and kitchen were approved and certified by the Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong, the governing body of local Islamic affairs. Halal food is cooked using separate utensils to ensure it is not contaminated by forbidden ingredients. There were no exact figures of how many patients benefited from the new service, but the authority noted an increase in demand since the scheme's introduction. The authority did not say when the halal meal service would be extended to other hospitals. Meals for hospitals in different districts are provided by different contractors, and agreements to supply such meals had to be reached with separate parties. According to the Census and Statistics Department's by-census in 2006, the Central and Western District had the highest population of ethnic minorities. Ethnic minority concern group Unison welcomed the new policy and urged that it be expanded to other hospitals. 'To take it a step further, they should add menus and food whose appearance are user-friendly for the minorities,' said campaign director Fermi Wong Wai-fun, explaining that a hospital meal consisting mainly of rice might not suit Pakistani or Indian patients. She also called for better translation services in hospitals. '[Translation] is a matter of life and death,' she said.