Hong Kong’s urban high-rise environment may seem an unlikely place to host a centre of veterinary excellence. But that is still not the way City University sees it, despite rejections of funding requests for a veterinary school in 2010 and 2014 by the University Grants Committee on the grounds that it is unviable and unnecessary. It has unveiled a self-financed, six-year undergraduate course in veterinary medicine beginning in the next academic year with an intake of 10 to 15 students, rising to about 30 in two years.
Each student would have to pay tuition fees of HK$120,000 a year. The government has warned the university not to assume that in the long run it would receive public funding, which would reduce the fees to HK$42,100 a year.
Nonetheless university president Professor Way Kuo is confident of securing government funding in 2018, by which time it also hopes to have raised HK$1 billion to support the programme. Cornell University in the US is a partner in the course.
City university says part of the course will focus not on training vets in the care of domestic pets, but on research into food safety and how to prevent disease spreading from animals to humans. Since this is most relevant to the agricultural and livestock industry across the border rather than Hong Kong, perhaps it is hoped the course will attract enough fee-paying students from the mainland to begin with.
The ‘perfectly safe’ headline came from ABC News (that’s Australian, not American) riffing on a slightly more modest government press release, “Study confirms safety of Australia’s food supply.”
Unfortunately, the study had nothing to do with microbial food safety.
What it did have to do with was the 23rd Australian Total Diet Study, which examined the dietary exposure of the Australian population to 214 agricultural and veterinary chemicals, 9 contaminants, 12 mycotoxins, and 11 nutrients. A total of 92 foods and beverages commonly consumed in the Australian diet were sampled during January/February and June/July 2008 by Government food agencies in each state and territory in Australia. Foods and beverages were prepared to a table-ready state before being analysed.
Dietary exposure was estimated by determining the concentration of the substance in the foods and beverages multiplied by the amount of food consumed by various age and gender groups, as reported in the two most recent Australian national nutrition surveys (NNS). The dietary exposure to agricultural and veterinary chemicals, contaminants and nutrients was assessed against available reference health standards to determine any potential human health and safety risks. Where there were no Australian health standards, internationally accepted reference health standards or Margins of Exposure (MOE) were used.
The ATDS found that for agricultural and veterinary chemical residues estimated dietary exposures were all below the relevant reference health standards. This is consistent with the findings from previous ATDS. In addition, there were no detections of mycotoxins in any of the foods analysed.
Estimated dietary exposure for contaminants were below the relevant health standards for all population groups at both the mean and 90th percentile consumption levels (high consumers).
The 23rd ATDS confirms the current safety of the Australian food supply in terms of the levels of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, contaminants, selected mycotoxins and nutrients.