Food industry in Hong Kong has been paying attention to food safety and consumer health, but it lacks the appropriate technologies and methodologies to tackle and safeguard against related problems. In this issue, Prof. Terence Lau, Director of Innovation and Technology Development and Convener of Food Safety Consortium, shared his view on current situation of food safety in Hong Kong and introduced the Food Safety Consortium newly established by PolyU.

What challenges in food safety are faced by Hong Kong?

Incidents of problematic food such as gutter oil, melamine-tainted milk powder and freshwater fish with Malachite Green have aroused public concern on food safety. Food industry has long been keeping eyes on such area and consumer health, but it lacks the appropriate technologies and methodologies to detect food quality problems and supply sources. When samples of problematic food are sent for laboratory tests, the food has already been selling in the market.

With fairly vulnerable food safety basis, there are needs for more effective testing, prevention and control methods with existing food safety issues. There is also room for improvement in related cooperation among law-makers, regulatory agencies, industry and academia.

What role does the Food Safety Consortium play in the development of food safety?

Taking a proactive role, the Food Safety Consortium established by PolyU provides a platform to identify food safety issues concerned by industry, government and the public, to exchange views among industrial representatives and food safety experts, and to develop technologies and solutions tackling food safety issues within the University or with other institutions.

Following the inception of Food Safety and Technology Research Centre in 2011, the Consortium was established this January. Its members include Coca-Cola, Nestle, Shangri-La Group and other organizations. The Consortium is also recognised as the sole affiliate of International Association for Food Protection in Hong Kong.

One of the objectives is to translate novel technologies developed by the academia. The Consortium also aims to provide scientific and evidence-based support to improve food safety, such as the application of next-generation DNA sequencing on food testing, including rapid detection and identification of food borne pathogens. The source of problematic food can thus be identified more efficiently. This not only supports the government’s work, but also helps to protect the industry and the public against safety risks.

What research initiatives and activities will the Consortium undertake?

In the near future, we wish to collect feedback from the industry on the technologies that they need. One of the industry concerns is to develop rapid and cost-effective on-site testing technologies to assess food quality and identify problematic foods without sending samples for laboratory tests.

Apart from innovative technology, the Consortium also works on risk analysis and toxicology research, food safety and public health, physical, chemical and biological safety including food borne viruses, genetically-modified foods, through the concerted efforts with colleagues at the Food Safety and Technology Research Centre of the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology and with those from other departments and fellow institutions.

In addition, the Consortium will organize various activities. One of them is the Global Food Safety and Technology Forum (GFSTF) to be held in Hong Kong on 3-5 February 2016. The Forum will provide a platform for supranational and governmental bodies, corporations, industry associations and research pioneers in the field, and other stakeholders to exchange on the most imminent technical problems and solutions in local, regional and global context. Through these sharing and exchange, the Consortium will compile an assessment report on food safety technology needs for stakeholders’ reference. With the intention of shaping food safety research directions in the coming three to five years, it is envisaged that GFSTF will become a sustainable platform in advancing global food safety. For more information about GFSTF 2016, please visit