The government is considering banning imports of high-risk foods such as live fugu under a proposed food safety bill, according to a top official. 'Because in Hong Kong, unlike in Japan, we don't have as many trained cooks [familiar with live fugu, which if prepared incorrectly can be fatal],' the director of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, Cheuk Wing-hing, said. 'There is at least one case last year that someone prepared the fish themselves [and got poisoned], which is very dangerous.' The bill, which aimed to control some food items, mainly aquatic products, not regulated at present, would be tabled for discussion in the Legislative Council in the second quarter of next year, Cheuk said. Frozen or dried fugu and other less risky foods such as live freshwater fish and shellfish could still be imported under the bill, as long as importers could provide health certificates for the products issued by authorities at their source. For fish caught in the wild, fishermen would have to record where they were caught, he said. Other low-risk products, such as canned fish, could still be imported freely. There have been sporadic poisonings associated with fugu, or puffer fish, in the city over the years. In November last year, a 61-year-old man was admitted to hospital after eating a puffer fish he caught in Victoria Harbour. He recovered. Early last year, health minister York Chow Yat-ngok said 19 Hongkongers had fallen sick after eating fugu in nine cases reported between January 2005 and December 2007. Apart from tightening import controls on food, the legislation will also require importers and distributors to be registered and to keep records of the movement of stock. The director said that following a recent survey of 51 food traders, it was determined that the registration scheme would increase companies' operating expenses by no more than 0.008 per cent, while their costs due to mandatory record keeping would rise by no more than 0.14 per cent, which is 'an insignificant amount'. Cheuk said the government would continue inspections of fresh meat to monitor use of the illegal preservative sulphur dioxide, and would continue checking microbiological content of ice cream. About 1,000 meat samples have been tested this year, of which 61 were found to contain the chemical. The department tested about 65,000 food items a year collected from importers, wholesalers and retailers, and 99.6 per cent of the samples were satisfactory. Cheuk said that in the coming two years, the department would check the safety of food related to national or regional cuisines. 'For example, in Korean cuisine, kimchee is common and there was research in the West which found microbes in it,' he said.