Hong Kong is renowned as the culinary capital of Asia, with local catering establishments of unique styles providing great varieties of Eastern and Western dishes cooked in different ways. However, for long, Hong Kong lacks a food hygiene standard that can cope with such characteristics and the operation mode of most small and medium-sized catering establishments.
To address the issue, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has applied its expertise in food safety to develop the comprehensive Food Hygiene Standard Certification System (FHSCS). Being the first of its kind and tailor-made for local catering establishments, FHSCS enables caterers, especially the small and medium-sized, to acquire certification with minimum resources. It is expected to help enhance both food hygiene and safety standards by reducing foodborne risks and food poisoning, thereby protecting public health and enabling the diverse development of the catering industry.
Officially launching the FHSCS today (28 September), PolyU invites all stakeholders from the catering industry, food safety organizations, as well as testing and certification industry to join hands in implementing the system.
Developed by PolyU's Food Safety and Technology Research Centre (FSTRC), FHSCS provides a certification scheme framework, including the Food Hygiene Standard FHS 001:2013 (the Standard), for the work of certification bodies. The Standard sets out the requirements of food hygiene systems for catering establishments. It encompasses all aspects pertaining to food hygiene, from purchasing, receiving and storage of food raw materials, processing food, serving food products to customers, ensuring environmental and personal hygiene, to maintaining documentation and record keeping.
Transferring PolyU knowledge to benefit the industry and society
Officiating at the launching ceremony, Dr Miranda Lou, Vice President (Administration and Business) of PolyU, said the University is glad to be able to translate its knowledge into practice, and help enhance the food hygiene standard of the catering industry. She particularly thanked the Hong Kong Council for Testing and Certification for its staunch support for PolyU in making the development of FHSCS possible.
"Nevertheless, only through the conjoint efforts of the Government, members of the catering and certification sectors, as well as PolyU in implementing the system can the community enjoy the benefits brought by it. We look forward to fostering partnerships with more organizations to maximize the impact and value of FHSCS, thereby facilitating the long-term development of the catering industry," said Dr Lou.
PolyU also announced today to authorize SGS Hong Kong Limited (SGS) as the first certification body to implement FHSCS. Under the agreement, SGS will offer documentation reviews, on-site audit assessments and certificate issuance service to qualified catering establishments in Hong Kong. Dr Lou said "PolyU is pleased to collaborate with SGS, the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company."
Special features of the Food Hygiene Standard FHS 001:2013
Dr Wong Ka-hing, Associate Director of FSTRC, said the Standard was developed based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles, the internationally recognized set of principles for reducing foodborne risks. HACCP principles provide a product-based and process-based approach to identify foodborne hazards in food production, so as to establish appropriate control measures. However, direct application of HACCP principles means the need for establishing control process for each and every product or dish, i.e. every food production line. Such direct application is not practicable to Hong Kong-style catering establishments, which have large variety of food dishes, coupled with various cookery methods. Moreover, most Chinese dishes nowadays still lack standardized processing methods.
"The Standard FHS 001:2013 developed by PolyU is aiming to address the above problems," said Dr Wong, who is also Associate Professor of PolyU's Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology. "The system is tailor-made to cope with the typical characteristics of local catering industry. It helps local-style catering establishments set up proper food hygiene systems with minimum resource input, yet being able to achieve certification. All in all, the certification system helps protect public health, while enhancing the business reputation of the caterers involved."
Under the Standard, food products are grouped into broad categorizations (such as hot products, cold products, and raw products) based on their basic processing steps, food characteristics, serving conditions, hygiene considerations, etc. HACCP principles will then be applied to each broad category to identify the hazards and critical control points in food processing, as well as the appropriate control measures.
Dr Leung Ka-sing, Associate Director of FSTRC, said the Standard can be applied to any kind of dine-in catering establishments, including restaurants, canteens, Chinese-style caterers which serve large varieties of dishes every day, and other catering establishments.
"During the development period, the PolyU team has tested the system on different kinds of catering establishments, such as fast food chain store, Chinese-style restaurant, eateries specialized in congee and noodles. The onsite trials, feedbacks from the management and frontline staff, as well as the inputs provided by experts in catering, food safety, testing and certification sectors have enabled us to ensure the practicality of the requirements and steps of this certification system," explained Dr Leung, who is also Adjunct Associate Professor of PolyU's Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology.
Mr Robert Parrish, Managing Director of SGS Hong Kong Limited, said SGS is fully ready for implementing FHSCS, and their related certification programme is now open for application. "SGS is excited to be a partner in this FHSCS programme as a certification body. We hold high hopes that FHSCS will be well adopted as a local certification model for catering establishments. We do believe that organizations will realize improved standards of food hygiene and safety through the implementation of this system, further safeguarding consumers and upholding Hong Kong's international reputation as a gourmet paradise."