Speech at Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene

III. Briefing by the Secretary for Environment and Ecology on the Chief Executive’s 2023 Policy Address

Licensing regime of food businesses

Members expressed concern about the effectiveness of the new system and requested the Administration to provide the following information: (a) the number of licences issued by FEHD since the introduction of the new system in March 2023; (b) the average time taken to process relevant licence applications before and after the implementation of the new system; (c) the number of cases which were considered as failing to comply with licensing requirements after FEHD’s on-site inspection and the follow-up actions taken by FEHD in respect of those cases; and (d) the effect of implementing the new system on FEHD’s manpower.

The Administration responded that since the implementation of the new system on 1 March 2023, FEHD had approved a total of six applications submitted via the new system, and two to three applications were not accepted due to failure to provide the required documents. Under the new system, if an applicant had submitted a certificate signed by an authorized person or registered structural engineer engaged by the applicant certifying the compliance with the hygiene and building safety requirements, and the applicant concerned had also complied with licensing conditions imposed by other relevant government departments, FEHD would issue a licence before arranging for an on-site inspection; and if the applicant chose to submit an application under the prevailing arrangement, FEHD staff would issue a licence only after completion of an on-site inspection and confirmation that the applicant had complied with all the licensing conditions. By changing the order of the relevant inspection and approval procedures, the new system could reduce the time required for FEHD to issue a full licence by about two weeks or so, but would not result in any material changes to FEHD’s manpower and workload.

Members were concerned that under the licensing scheme for Composite Food Shop Licence (“CFSL”) introduced by FEHD in 2010, an applicant might choose to sell and/or prepare for sale a number of specified types of food in the licensed food premises; however, the current number of food premises with valid CFSLs was very low. The Administration responded that the objective of introducing CFSL was to provide food business operators with an additional option to choose to apply for a CFSL or other types of licences/permits according to their business needs. To further facilitate business, the Administration planned to introduce a “composite permit”, so that applicants would only need to apply for one “composite permit” and pay the approval fee for one permit to sell multiple restricted food items at the same premise or online platform. As applicants for the “composite permit” would not need to apply for separate permits for different types of restricted food items, time and cost could be saved. The Administration expected that the measure would be welcomed by the sector.