Jean-Étienne Liotard, Still Life - Tea Set, about 1781-1783, public domain.

Food products have always been at the forefront of globalization, travelling through ancient and modern trade routes. Through the ancient Silk Roads, merchants traded not only lucrative silk and gemstones, but also tea and exotic spices. Through the same routes, merchants and travellers transferred winemaking techniques from the Mediterranean region to China, while the idea of noodles moved westward becoming later one of the main features of Italian cuisine. Through other routes, agricultural products and know-how related to food preparation have continued to travel, transforming and shaping eating habits of all people around the world. Millennia of food globalization and more recently enhanced transportation have made every type of food and beverage product available on every table. Eating habits, tastes and more recently increasing concerns about quality and safety of food products determine food preferences and influence regulatory choices, affecting in this way global trade and investment in the food sector.

For centuries Hong Kong has been at the center of trading routes, connecting and blending eastern and western cultures. Hong Kong’s role, as a pivotal interconnection point of trading flows and as an investment platform is deemed to remain central despite the enhancements of old routes and the creation of new routes with the Belt and Road Initiative.

The conference “Food Law Comparative Perspectives: Safety, Trade, and Culture in Hong Kong, Asia, and the EU” blossoms with the aim to explore on one hand, the role of Hong Kong, as a community with its own food habits, food safety concern and scandals, and on the other hand, analyse in particular the role of Hong Kong, as connector for imports-exports of food products and investments in the food sector in Asia. Relying on a multidisciplinary approach, the conference seeks to address some of the most relevant issues related to trade and investments in the food sector:

  • The role of food laws and regulations as a bridge supporting food safety and high-quality standards;
  • The relationship between law, enforcement in food safety in Hong Kong;
  • The demand of Asian markets for Italian and European products and vice-versa in relation to legally defined and perceived food safety standards; and
  • The role of Hong Kong as a connector in cross border trade and investment in the food and beverage sector through its network of free trade and investment agreements.

The raising concern for food quality and food safety in the region draws the attention to the need for better regulation and more effective enforcement. At the same time, in a globalized world where cross-country exchanges take place with a sharp increase, a look at the empirical perspective becomes imperative in order to get a deeper understanding of the challenges that importers face while entering the Asian market.
The purpose of the conference is to address the most current issues related to food in a thorough, yet accessible manner for non-lawyers, reflecting on the role of the law as a bridge for trade and investment in the food sector.

With a blend of expertise in each panel, involving academics, attorneys, and sociologists, the discussion will cover food regulation at different levels, Free Trade Agreements between the European Union and Asian countries, the perspective of the private sector in production, trade and food service, and enforcement challenges with viewpoints from government officials. The last panel draws inspiration from the growing trend for a more sustainable food consumption, taking into consideration both environmental and labour core values to build a future for the next generations. The Conference will contribute to the public and scholar debate in the area of food regulation and international economic law and their implications on food habits.