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LCQ12: Mainland vegetables supplied to Hong Kong

     Following is a question by the Hon Fred Li and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (October 21):


     According to a paper submitted by the authorities to the Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene of this Council, vegetables imported into Hong Kong must come from registered farms, and each consignment of vegetables imported from the Mainland must be accompanied with a "certificate of pesticide usage for vegetables supplied to Hong Kong and Macao" and an "inspection card of vegetables supplied to Hong Kong and Macao" issued by the mainland authorities and be affixed with a label on the packaging (e.g. basket or carton), setting out information on the source of the vegetables.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  given that the labels of some vegetables imported from the Mainland only set out the registration numbers of the collection and processing plants and do not provide any information on the vegetable farms concerned, how the authorities ensure that these vegetables come from registered farms; and

(b)  whether it will discuss with the mainland authorities ways to plug the above loophole, so as to prevent collection and processing plants from importing vegetables from unregistered farms into Hong Kong?



(a)  Under the current administrative arrangement between the Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government and the Mainland regulatory authorities, all vegetables supplied to Hong Kong must come from registered vegetable farms and collecting and processing establishments.  Each consignment must be accompanied with the relevant certification documents to ensure its safety for consumption, and affixed with a label with information on the source of the vegetables on the packaging (e.g. basket and carton).  Affixing such label is to facilitate source tracing on detection of problem vegetables.  The labels are produced by the relevant collecting and processing establishments, and include the name, address and registration number of the establishment, name of the vegetable species, date of production as well as name of the vegetable farm.

     The inspection and quarantine authorities in the Mainland will take management and control measures on vegetables supplied to Hong Kong, including management at source in respect of farms and collecting and processing establishments that supply vegetables to Hong Kong.  Before export, the content and information of the accompanying documents of every consignment of vegetables have to be checked by the inspection and quarantine authorities.  Moreover, all vehicles have to be sealed and checked by the inspection and quarantine authorities before export.  The border inspection and quarantine authorities will also conduct random inspection of vegetable vehicles.  The authorities will check the seal of every vegetable vehicle, allowing only those with intact seals to enter Hong Kong.

     As required by the Mainland regulatory authorities, each collecting and processing establishment must have corresponding registered vegetable farms.  Therefore, whether or not the information of the registered vegetable farms is shown on the labels on the packaging of imported vegetables, effective tracing of the registered vegetable farms concerned can be achieved through the information of the collecting and processing establishments shown on the label.

     At present, all Mainland fresh vegetables entering Hong Kong via land route must be imported through Man Kam To and subject to random inspection by officers of the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department at the Man Kam To Food Control Office.  CFS officers will check the integrity of the seals of vegetable vehicles, examine the vegetables and verify whether the accompanying documents tally with the consignments, and take vegetable samples for testing of pesticide residue, irrespective of which vegetable farm or collecting and processing establishment the vegetables come from.  Should any consignment be found not tallying with its accompanying documents, the consignment concerned will be detained and the Mainland authorities will be notified accordingly to take follow-up actions.  From 2007 to August this year, the CFS has taken 33,000 samples for testing of pesticide residues at Man Kam To Control Point, of which 99.9% are satisfactory.  

     The CFS has always been working closely with the Customs and Excise Department in exchanging intelligence and conducting joint operations at the Man Kam To Border Control Point to ensure food safety of import vegetables.

(b)  The Government will continue to take measures to ensure food safety of vegetables supplied to Hong Kong, including keeping in close contact and collaboration with the Mainland authorities to exchange intelligence.  If it comes to the knowledge of the trade that there is supply of vegetables from unknown sources to Hong Kong, they can report it to the Mainland authorities or to SAR Government for referring to the Mainland authorities.  Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department and the CFS will take actions to help fight against these illegal activities.

     Furthermore, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People's Republic of China has recently amended the "Administrative Measures on Inspection, Quarantine and Supervision for Vegetables Supplied to Hong Kong and Macao" (the Measures) to align with the "Law of the People's Republic of China on Food Safety" that has already come into force in the Mainland.  The new Measures, taking effect on November 1, 2009, will further strengthen management and control at source in respect of the vegetable farms and processing establishments, improve the source tracing system of vegetables, and increase penalties for illegal conducts.  This will enhance public confidence in vegetables imported from the Mainland.

     Under the new inspection and quarantine arrangement, the vegetable farms and processing establishments are required to establish and maintain a record system for vegetable production and purchase and inspection of raw materials respectively.  The processing establishments are also required to set out the manufacturing information of the product concerned on the packaging label for transport and sale.  This arrangement will greatly enhance the traceability of problem food and echoes the requirement for keeping transaction records under the Food Safety Bill which is being prepared in Hong Kong.  We plan to submit the Food Safety Bill to the Legislative Council in this legislative year to strengthen food safety control.  The Bill will include a mandatory registration system for food importers and distributors, as well as require food traders (including vegetable importers and distributors) to keep food transaction records.

Ends/Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Issued at HKT 15:35


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