Recently, a screening method developed by a local biotechnology company has been awarded the Grand Prix of the International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva. This method mainly involves the use of transgenic fish embryo to screen for the possible presence of harmful substances in food, cosmetics, etc.

As the enforcement agency for food safety, the testing method adopted by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) must be validated by relevant bodies, and able to identify the types of chemical or microbiological agents present and determine their exact quantities. This is because the test results have to form the basis for taking enforcement actions.

The company has previously approached the CFS about using transgenic medaka and zebrafish embryo to screen for chemicals in food. We have assessed their written proposal. Based on the information submitted, the screening test could only indicate that the concerned food item may contain substance with estrogenic activity but could not identify the particular substance and determine whether the quantity exceeded the standard level. Therefore, the method was considered not applicable to our daily work in food safety monitoring and enforcement and we have provided written replies to the concerned company.

The CFS has been closely monitoring the local and international developments in regulatory testing on food safety, and has been keeping an open mind to adopting various new techniques to enhance the effectiveness of food safety monitoring. The CFS will consider applying a testing technique to food safety monitoring and enforcement if there is sufficient scientific evidence to support the validity and effectiveness of the technique.