Hong Kong unprepared for potential food crises

March 10, 2005, as reported by just-food.com: Hong Kong is not prepared to handle potential health risks and needs to bring its practices more in line with western countries, a consultant for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) reportedly told a Hong Kong newspaper.

"We are a little bit behind,'' said Dr Ho Yuk-yin, consultant for the department's community medicine program. “We are trying to catch up.”

In order to improve its ability to handle potential health crises , the FEHD will conduct a territory-wide survey to poll dietary and food consumption habits. The year-long survey of people aged 20 to 84 will start today (March 10).

The survey will fill in gaps in Hong Kong's knowledge of general chemical risks in food sold everywhere, said Ho.

“Before, we did a bit of guessing or used other people's data,” said Ho. That limited insight into actual food safety concerns and was not scientific enough to formulate policies for food and health protection, he said.

Explaining the FEHD survey, Ho said: “Once you've got this data set, you can address any problems. Combining [knowledge about chemicals in foods] with food consumption data, you can assess the dietary exposure of any chemical of interest,” he said.

Ho said Hong Kong lacked an adequate and exact risk-assessment database that would allow easier handling of problems with the territory's food.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong has been commissioned to conduct the survey. The results will be presented in 2006.