LCQ13: Food safety of post-secondary institutions' canteens


Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      Following is a question by the Hon Helena Wong and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (January 11):
 
Question:

     It has been reported that in November last year, some students of a post-secondary institution launched a worm-eating protest on campus as they were dissatisfied that a hall canteen had provided unsanitary food and yet the institution had renewed the contract with the canteen operator.  On the other hand, as the interpretation of the expression "food business" in the Food Business Regulation (Cap. 132 sub. leg. X) (the Regulation) has excluded canteens provided in schools for the use exclusively of the pupils of the schools concerned, those canteens are not required to apply for and hold restaurant licenses.  However, quite a number of canteens of post-secondary institutions serve staff members and are open to outsiders at present.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of complaints received in each of the past five years by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) about unsanitary food sold by canteens of post-secondary institutions, and whether FEHD instituted prosecutions in respect of those complaints; if FEHD did, of the number of prosecutions instituted; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) of the number of inspections conducted by FEHD on canteens of post-secondary institutions in each of the past five years, as well as the criteria adopted by FEHD for determining the frequency of inspection;

(3) whether FEHD provided, in the past five years, information concerning the number of complaints received in relation to the canteens of the post-secondary institutions, the number of prosecutions instituted, the hygiene conditions found during inspections, etc ., to the administration departments of the institutions concerned for follow up; if FEHD did, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) whether canteens of post-secondary institutions are required to apply for and hold restaurant licenses; if not, whether the authorities will consider amending the interpretation of the expression "food business" in the Regulation so as to subject those canteens to the regulation of the relevant provisions; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

     According to section 4 of the Food Business Regulation (Cap.

132 sub. leg. X) (the Regulation), the expression "food business" does not include premises specified therein, such as canteens provided in any school or work place (except factory canteens) for the use exclusively of the pupils of the school and the persons employed in the work place respectively.  Therefore, the canteens of post-secondary institutions are not required to obtain a food business licence.  That said, contractors will be awarded operation contracts by post-secondary institutions only after it is confirmed that they have complied with the selection criteria set by the institutions.  In general, the contracts between the institutions and contractors will clearly specify the terms and conditions that must be complied with by the contractors, including those concerning the hygiene standards required of the food supplied.  Furthermore, contractors shall abide by the provisions governing food safety under Part V of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap.

132) (the Ordinance) and its subsidiary legislation to ensure food safety.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(1) In the past five years, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) received a total of 22 complaints about unsanitary food sold by the canteens of post-secondary institutions.  Two of the cases were subject to prosecutions under section 52 of the Ordinance.

(2) Same as the routine inspections of licensed food premises classified as medium risk, the inspections on canteens are conducted once every 10 weeks.  The number of inspections conducted by FEHD on canteens (including school canteens and staff canteens and excluding factory canteens) in the past five years were 4 170, 3 840, 3 773, 3 706 and 3 747 respectively.  FEHD does not maintain a breakdown of the number of inspections conducted on the canteens of post-secondary institutions.

(3) If FEHD officers find the food hygiene or environmental hygiene conditions of the canteens of post-secondary institutions unsatisfactory during their inspections, they will generally give advice to the persons-in-charge of the canteens and provide them with information on hygiene education and food safety.  If the canteens are found to have violated the relevant legislation on food safety or environmental hygiene, FEHD will consider prosecuting the persons-in-charge of the canteens and inform the management of the post‑secondary institutions for follow-up.  FEHD does not maintain any figures on the number of referrals.

(4) According to section 4 of the Regulation, the expression "food business" does not include any canteen provided in any school for the use exclusively of the pupils of the school.   The canteens of post-secondary institutions are therefore not required to obtain a food business licence.  However, the contractors have to apply to FEHD for the appropriate permits for the sale of restricted foods listed in Schedule 2 of the Regulation, such as fresh milk and frozen confections.  Although a food business licence is not required for the operation of a canteen of post-secondary institution, the food items sold in such canteen are subject to regulation by provisions governing food safety under the Ordinance.  In addition, FEHD officers will inspect the canteens of post‑secondary institutions on a regular basis to check the environmental hygiene conditions and the food safety measures taken, and provide persons‑in‑charge with information on hygiene education and food safety.  If the canteens are found to have violated the legislation on food safety or environmental hygiene, FEHD will consider prosecuting the persons-in-charge of the canteens and inform the management of the post-secondary institutions for follow-up.  The Government considers that the existing control measures are adequate to ensure the food safety of the canteens of post-secondary institutions and amendment to the definition of "food business" in the Regulation in this regard is not necessary.



Published on: 2017-01-11

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