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LCQ2: Food waste reduction
     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (March 22):
     A survey has revealed that 74 per cent and 99 per cent respectively of the food product companies and chain convenience stores surveyed discarded foods that could not be sold because they had expired, would soon expire or had unappealing appearance, but were still suitable for human consumption, causing wastage and giving rise to food waste. Among the operators of these two types of organisations, 29 per cent and 82 per cent of them respectively indicated that they had not donated such foods to non-profit making organisations for consumption by the needy because they were worried that legal risks might be incurred for donating foods. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the Government conducted surveys in the past three years on restaurants, market stalls, chain supermarkets and retail shops discarding foods which were still suitable for human consumption; if so, of the quantity of foods discarded each year; if not, whether it will conduct such surveys;
(2) given that quite a number of countries or regions have, by making reference to the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act in the United States, enacted similar legislation under which food donors will be discharged from the associated legal liabilities, whether the Government will consider afresh enacting such kind of legislation; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the food donation projects funded by the Environment and Conservation Fund in the past three years; if so, of the outcome, including the total quantity of foods collected under such projects (with a breakdown by food source); whether the Government will further offer incentives (e.g. tax concessions) to encourage food sellers to donate foods that cannot be sold but are still suitable for human consumption to non-profit making organisations; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     In February 2014, the Government promulgated "A Food Waste & Yard Waste Plan For Hong Kong 2014-2022" which mapped out four strategies, namely food waste reduction at source, reuse and food donation, recyclable collection and food waste-to-energy as the backbone in order to face the challenge of food waste. The Government has also launched Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign and Food Waste Recycling Partnership Scheme to encourage the public and the business sector to reduce food waste in their daily life and operation. According to the "Monitoring of Solid Waste in Hong Kong - Waste Statistics for 2015" published in December 2016, the quantity of food waste disposed of at landfills in 2015 decreased by 7.1 per cent compared to 2014, while the per capita food waste disposal has decreased by 7.9 per cent. This indicates that in recent years the reduction in food waste of the community has improved.
     Our responses to the question raised by the Hon Chan Hak-kan are as follows:
(1) As food is not waste before it is disposed of and the quantity of the editable food discarded by various sale outlets in Hong Kong are related to the operational information of these individual companies, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) does not have the specific data.
(2) The Centre of Food Safety of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) issued the Food Safety Guidelines for Food Recovery (Food Safety Guidelines) in August 2013, setting out food safety principles on donating food regardless the types and sources of food. The Food Safety Guidelines have been made available on government websites for sharing with the trades, food recovery organisations and non-government organisations. At present, some food donors and recipients of food donation programmes have taken into account the Food Safety Guidelines in respect of food safety and liability issues during the discussion and in drawing up an agreement in order to eliminate concerns from food donors about the potential legal liabilities in relation to food safety.
     In addition, if the organisation applies funding from the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) to finance food recovery project, at least one full-time employee in the project team should possess a health manager or hygiene supervisor qualification recognised by the FEHD to oversee the food safety issues of the operation of the entire project.
     So far, different food donation programmes have succeeded in donating edible surplus food to people in need. The current Food Safety Guidelines also play a role in ensuring the safety of food donations. Legislation on exempting legal liability of food donors relates to food safety, therefore Government must take a cautious approach.  At this stage, we have no plans to introduce such legislation.
(3) We are concerned about the possible losses occurring along the food chain because they present a loss in valuable resources. Therefore, we agree that surplus food and food that has not reached its "best before date" are still edible and should not be thrown away. In May 2013, the Government launched Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign to promote reduction of food waste including donation of surplus food from business sectors.
     In supporting the Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign implemented by the Government, since July 2014 the ECF has been funding non-profit making organisations in the recovery of surplus food. The funded activities include collection of surplus but edible food from different channels such including restaurants, clubs, hotels, market traders, supermarkets, retail shops and food wholesalers for distribution to those in need. This also accords with our "Use less and Waste less" concept. As of December 2016, the ECF has approved a total of 20 such projects, involving 10 non-profit making organisations, with funding support of about $32 million and with anticipation to collect around 2 300 tonnes of surplus food and to donate them to about 1.9 million headcounts. As these projects are implemented through non-profit making organisations, the Government does not have detailed information on the breakdown figures by food source.
     The Government will continue to pursue the Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign and to enhance promotion of food donations through different channels including the ECF. The funding support from the ECF has already reduced the operation costs on food donation and provides a certain degree of incentive for business sector. The Government will closely monitor the results of these schemes. In future, the implementation of the quantity-based municipal solid waste charging scheme will also increase the economic incentives for encouraging food sellers to donate surplus food that is safe for consumption in order to save waste charges.

     Thank you President.
Ends/Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Issued at HKT 13:11
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