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LCQ4: Food truck

     Following is a question by the Hon Yiu Si-wing and a reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (June 3):


     It has been reported that this year, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department stepped up enforcement efforts against unlicensed hawkers, resulting in the night bazaar in Sham Shui Po, which had emerged during the Chinese New Year holidays in the past few years, no longer operating. On the other hand, the Financial Secretary has indicated in his Budget Speech this year that the Government will consider introducing food trucks, which are popular abroad, to Hong Kong.  Moreover, the Food and Health Bureau put forward some improvement proposals in March this year after reviewing the existing policy on hawker control and management. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective numbers of licensed hawkers and prosecutions instituted against unlicensed hawkers in each of the past three years; whether it has studied the causes for the year-on-year changes in such numbers;

(2) of the difference between the licence the authorities intend to issue for food trucks and itinerant hawker licence; whether the authorities will consider, in issuing such licence, giving priority to the existing itinerant hawker licence holders who intend to change their business to operate food trucks; and

(3) in view of the changes in the number of licensed hawkers in the past few years and the problems caused by unlicensed hawkers, of the policies the authorities will put in place in future to tackle the problem of illegal hawking; whether it will adjust the existing policy on hawker control and management in the light of the introduction of food trucks?



     Over the years, it has been the Government's policy to properly regulate the hawking activities of licensed hawkers and take enforcement actions against illegal hawking.  Under the existing enforcement strategies, where hawking activities are not taking place in major thoroughfares, areas of high pedestrian flow or markets/hawker bazaars, officers of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) will usually seek to disperse the hawkers by giving verbal warnings. Prosecutions will be instituted if the verbal warnings are unheeded. For hawking activities that are taking place at any of the aforesaid locations, such as major thoroughfares which I mentioned earlier, they will take prosecution action without giving any prior warning. The same will apply to hawking activities involving the sale of prohibited/restricted food or cooked food, which are strictly forbidden under all circumstances. The above enforcement practices are adopted to strike a reasonable balance among a number of considerations, including the needs to uphold the normal operation of licensed hawker stalls in the district; safeguard environmental hygiene, food safety and the personal safety of pedestrians; and reduce the potential noise nuisance to the local community etc..

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

(1) The number of hawker licences in 2012, 2013 and 2014 is 6 739, 6 434 and 6 347 respectively.

In view of the various problems arising from on-street hawking activities, it has been the Government's position that no new hawker licences should normally be issued, while the succession and transfer of different categories of hawker licences already issued are either subject to stringent restrictions, or not allowed at all as in the case of itinerant hawker licences. In addition, the Government has rolled out since mid-2013 an assistance scheme under which an ex-gratia payment is offered to hawkers in fixed-pitch hawker areas who opt for voluntary surrender of their hawker licences to the Government. As a result, there has been a continuous drop in the number of licensed hawkers.

     Frontline FEHD officers have been taking enforcement actions in the light of the actual situation on the ground in respect of unlicensed hawkers, illegal hawking activities and obstructions to passageway, and in response to public complaints. The number of prosecutions taken out in the past three years against unlicensed hawking is 27 457, 29 243 and 26 025 respectively.

(2) and (3) For those parts of the question related to food trucks, the joint reply from the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) and the Food and Health Bureau (FHB) is as follows.

     Food truck is a new idea put forth by the Financial Secretary in his 2015-16 Budget Speech. With a view to enriching the variety of culinary delicacies available to tourists and local people, CEDB is, in collaboration with FHB, FEHD, Transport Department and other relevant departments, studying various aspects such as the vehicle specifications and requirements, licensing requirements, mode of operation, food safety and environmental hygiene.

     At this stage, CEDB is actively collecting and studying relevant information on overseas systems and experience (such as those of North America, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Europe and Australia). Details of the implementation plan, including whether the current licensing requirements for the food industry are applicable to food trucks, the eligibility of applicants and the feasibility of mobile operation, will be subject to the outcome of the study.

     The trend in the past few years is such that the number of both licensed hawkers and unlicensed hawkers has been declining. Details are as follows:

        No. of licensed     No. of unlicensed
        hawkers             hawkers
        ---------------     -----------------
2010       7 171                1 876
2014       6 347                1 440

     On the subject of unlicensed hawkers, FEHD will continue to adopt the strategies of mobile patrol and raiding to deter illegal hawking.

     The Government is committed to ensuring food safety and maintaining a clean and hygienic living environment for the people of Hong Kong in particular those residing in the vicinity of areas designated for hawking. For FHB and FEHD, this commitment must be fulfilled, regardless of whether the prevailing hawker policy is targeted at regulating or supporting hawking activities.

     FHB and FEHD made our stance in this respect clear on March 2, 2015 when we discussed the local hawker policy with the Subcommittee on Hawker Policy under the Legislative Council Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene.

     From the policy perspective, the Government seeks to formulate a hawker policy which is striking an optimal balance between allowing licensed hawking business to thrive and meeting other legitimate concerns such as avoiding unreasonable nuisance to the local community in addition to ensuring food safety, environmental hygiene and public safety. From the practical implementation perspective, the Government keeps an open mind towards concrete proposals on developing the hawker trade in any locality, so long as food safety and environmental hygiene are not compromised, public passageways are not obstructed and local community support is obtained.  

     Although the detailed plan for bringing in food trucks is still subject to the outcome of the study and yet to be finalised, the mission of FHB and FEHD, i.e. ensuring food safety and maintaining a clean and hygienic living environment for the people of Hong Kong, should not be affected by the introduction of this new idea in any way.

Ends/Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Issued at HKT 18:22


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