Let Hong Kong’s veterinary surgeons do more to ensure the safety of local livestock and meat imports
Very much in contrast to its current public image in Hong Kong as doctors for only dogs and cats, the veterinary profession was originally established with the aim of controlling diseases of livestock and optimising their production, for food security and food safety reasons.
Today, around 70 livestock farms remain in the New Territories and provide the public with a daily supply of fresh local produce. Clearly the local farms are unable to provide food security for Hong Kong by themselves, and therefore most food has to be imported in high volumes, from almost every continent. As a consequence, the city is tightly integrated into the highly complex global food system, which results in a significant likelihood of the emergence of food safety issues.
The unique expertise particularly of veterinary surgeons – who play an important role in food safety among a number of professions that are required to safeguard the health of a human community – is an essential requirement for safeguarding the well-being of animals and maintaining high standards of food safety. There is therefore an urgent need to involve them more in trying to better understand or more effectively tackle the issue of food safety in Hong Kong, arising from local production as well as imported food products.
Your recent article (“Most food imported by air gets into city without documents”, November 28) suggests that indeed more veterinarians could be better used. Considering the changes in food systems on the mainland and in our neighbouring countries, as well as the Belt and Road Initiative, there will be further increases in travellers and goods coming through Hong Kong. This will be accompanied by likely significant changes in food safety risks, for which Hong Kong needs to be well-prepared.
Professor Michael P Reichel, dean and chair professor of veterinary medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences