(December 18, 2006) Greenpeace confronted the Centre for Food Safety of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) with over 400 wish cards from citizens on a ‘Food Safety Wishing Tree’. The food safety wish cards were then spread on the walls of FEHD in a bid to force the government to face public opinion directly and implement immediately measures to guarantee all food entering Hong Kong is safe, including formulation of chemical standards in food and legislations on food import.
It was reported that Mr Eddy Chan, Director of FEHD, was at the office while the action was taking place. Yet, only a staff was assigned to receive the tree. On the other hand, FEHD refused to promise the timetable for formulating chemical standard in food. It only said that Food Safety Advisory Committee would meet on coming Wednesday and discuses similar items. Greenpeace is strongly discontented with FEHD evading the issue.
Greenpeace Food Safety Assistant Campaigner Chow Yuen-ping said food surveillance system must include setting clear chemical standards in food, such as pesticide residues in vegetables, so that citizens and the industry can draw reference to the food safety bottom line. Well-established food import laws should also include licensing mechanism, compulsory port inspection and penalty so that manufacturers and importers are accountable for food safety.
Chow said, “The government must be open to reform and set legislations to monitor quality of import food. Contaminated food must be stopped from importing to Hong Kong.”
In April, Greenpeace exposed the pesticide residue problems in vegetables and called attention to loopholes of government supervision on food import. The recent series of food safety crisis proved that the existing mechanisms fail to keep problem food out of Hong Kong.
In view of the food scandals, the mainland government and industries have stepped up measures to supervise food safety and restore public confidence. From problem vegetables to contaminated eggs, the mainland government quickly imposed specific regulations to plug loopholes and strengthen supervision. Measures are implemented to punish illegal manufacturers and strengthen product quality and safety management. By contrast, The SAR government was unable to handle food safety problems and even cannot trace the sources of contaminated food.
Chow added, “Citizens have no choice. What can we eat if there are problems in our major food, such as fish, vegetable and egg? The existing food monitoring system fails to guarantee food safety in Hong Kong.”
The “Food Safety Wishing Tree” collected hearty words of more than 400 citizens in only 3 days. “The wishing cards we received clearly voice out public wishes for food safety,” said Chow. “The government should quickly implement comprehensive food control measures and establish relevant laws and regulations.”