Our Ref: CAB C4/17/7

16 October, 1999

Mrs Constance Li
Clerk to Bills Committee
Legislative Council Secretariat
Legislative Council Building
8 Jackson Road
Central, Hong Kong

(Fax: 2509 9055)

Dear Mrs Li,

Bills Committee on
Provision of Municipal Services (Reorganization) Bill

Follow-up to meetings on 10 September 1999

Thank you for your letter of 10 September 1999, conveying the Bills Committee's requests for information. Our response is set out below.

  1. Which department(s) will have the authority to decide and take actions on the importation, sale (and recall/suspension from sale) and destruction of poultry, livestock and fish and other non-food animals/fish/poultry.

    Under the proposed new structure, Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD) will remain the overall authority for animal controls. Nevertheless, to render more effective control over different stages of the food chain, the proposed Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) will be involved in preventing and controlling diseases originating in food animals which have a public health angle (e.g. measures targeted at poultry to prevent avian flu and measures targeted at pigs to prevent the use of clenbuterol). Specifically, the FEHD will conduct health inspection and collecting samples for veterinary testing of food animals in such places as Mankamto Control Point and Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse. It will also be responsible for the coral reef fish harvesting zone registration system.

    As far as non-food animals are concerned, AFD will be the authority in respect of their importation, sale and destruction under such enactments as the Dogs and Cats Ordinance (Cap. 167) and the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap. 170). As regards food animals (including poultry, livestock and fish), AFD will be responsible for control measures on farm while FEHD takes control measures at the import, wholesale and retail levels.

    Although the Consultant has recommended that AFD's responsibility for livestock/poultry farm hygiene inspections should be transferred to FEHD, on reflection, we consider that it would be tidier and would minimize any duplication of work if AFD retains such a function. Under the new structure, AFD will remain as the licensing authority for livestock and poultry farms. As AFD staff will continue to visit the farms regularly to advise farmers on good husbandry practice and other non-public health related matters, it would be more convenient for both staff and farm operators if AFD is responsible for farm hygiene inspections as well. If outbreaks of food animal diseases are identified on farm, AFD may declare the farm as an infected place under the Public Health (Animals and Birds) Ordinance (Cap. 139) and may prohibit the movement of any animal or poultry into and out of the farm.

  2. What existing functions of Agriculture and Fisheries Department will be transferred to the future Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and the related staffing arrangements.

    The Consultant in his report on "Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene Services in Hong Kong" recommended that the following functions which are currently performed by AFD should be transferred to FEHD:

  • poultry inspection and control
  • food animals quarantine and health checks
  • livestock/poultry farm hygiene inspections
  • coral fish harvest zones registration programme

    We have accepted most of the Consultant's recommendations except that the function of farm hygiene inspections will remain with AFD as explained above.

  1. Clarification (with the aid of a flowchart) on the role of the proposed Environment and Food Bureau, and a comparison on the existing and future functions of departments which are involved in food and environmental hygiene matters.

    The current and future structure concerning food safety and environmental hygiene are set out in the flow charts at Annex A.

  2. Whether there will be a higher level mechanism above the Secretary for Food and Environment to direct and co-ordinate actions to deal with large scale food safety or environmental hygiene emergencies, and the procedures involved to activate such mechanism.

    The new Environment and Food Bureau (EFB) to whom FEHD, AFD and EPD are accountable will play an overall co-ordinating role to and provide policy direction on food safety and environmental hygiene matters. In coordinating inter-departmental response to large scale food safety or environmental hygiene emergencies, the SEF will report to the Chief Executive and the Chief Secretary for Administration. High level inter-departmental meetings may be convened to deal with any emergencies if the situation requires.

  3. List of overseas authorities and organizations which are expected to liaise separately with the Department of Health and the future FEHD.

    Under the new set-up, the Department of Health (DH) will remain as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's health authority while the new FEHD will be responsible for food safety and environmental hygiene related matters. Accordingly, DH will continue its liaison with World Health Organization (WHO) on health-related matters and FEHD will establish liaison with WHO on food safety matters. Moreover, FEHD will liaise with other overseas authorities and organizations such as Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooporation (APEC) on food safety matters. As the portfolio of these overseas organizations is multi-faceted, the two departments will work closely in liaising with them.

  4. More details on the future arrangement/policy considerations for fixing the public market rental in urban areas and in the New Territories, for example, rental adjustments on tenancy renewal and the rental differences for open tender and restricted tender.

    The policy for determining the upset price of public market stalls by open and restricted auction in urban areas and the New Territories is the same. We do not envisage any drastic change to the policy. As regards the alignment of the different policies for rental adjustments of the two Provisional Municipal Councils, the EFB and FEHD will undertake a comprehensive review as soon as possible after 1 January 2000. Pending the review, the existing mechanism will be retained.

Yours sincerely,

( John C Y Leung )
for Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Annex A