Team:Hong Kong JSS/Human Practices

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Team:Hong Kong JSS/Human Practices


  1. Aflatoxin contamination is a global issue. Luckily, local grain retail stores did not receive much impact from aflatoxin threat.
  2. Although we cannot detect any aflatoxin in samples from local grocery stores, store owners had joined the conversation with our team and gave suggestions on our designed prototype.
  3. We developed our project based on stakeholders’ opinions. We collected opinions from different stakeholders including the local expert, retailers and consumers. Based on their feedback, we generated an ethical matrix to identify the critical factors being concerned and shaped our project accordingly.
  4. Awareness of aflatoxin contamination is weak locally. We did public education in school and did public education promotion on the street.

2020 Nov
  1. Report on aflatoxin from WHO (2018)
    Our idea was initiated by a report from WHO (2018), which found that nearly 25% of the food crops were contaminated by Aflatoxin B (AFB) annually. Around 5 billion people were susceptible to AFB exposure and 80% of them developed AFB-related cancer. It indicates that the damage caused by aflatoxin is devastating to us. While in Hong Kong, the Consumer Council (2020) reported that 24% of the popular dried spices contained AFB. It shows that AFB contamination is commonly seen and there is a need to address the problem.

2020 Dec
  1. Local store aflatoxin search - none is found
    Retailer discussion - no special measure is used
    We did a preliminary search for aflatoxin in the local grocery stores. Luckily, we did not detect any aflatoxin in the samples collected, for instance, cereals, peanuts, rice and beans. After discussing with the store owners, we found that they had done nothing to address the aflatoxin problem.

Interview with a local grocery store owner.

2021 Jan
  1. Public survey - poor understanding and awareness of aflatoxin
    Then, we conducted a survey to understand how well the general public in Hong Kong were aware of the issue. The situation is shocking. More than 60% of people in Hong Kong had not heard of aflatoxin at all. Even worse, nearly half of the interviewees said they had never checked the expiry date of the purchased food product. Besides, almost none of them have checked the aflatoxin in their purchase.

Results of our public survey. (n=197)

2021 Mar
  1. Thoughts and ideas on AFB removal by using synthetic E. coli
    After reading related journal articles, we had some thoughts and ideas on using synthetic E. coli to remove AFB1 in food. We would like to synthesize a laccase-producing E. coli to degrade AFB1.

2021 Apr
  1. Local expert visit
    1. metabolising with the bacterial strain
    2. detoxifying spray

    Interview with Professor Lam Hon Ming.

    We took the data from our preliminary search for aflatoxin in the local grocery stores to Prof. Lam Hon Ming, a professor from the School of Life Sciences in CUHK. He commented that the food which contained aflatoxin had already been removed before they were sold on the market. He suggested creating products that could reduce AFB1 by binding or metabolising with the bacterial strain in order to degrade the AFB1 in food. We incorporated his suggestion into our design. We decided to create two products for two different purposes:
    1. An aflatoxin-degrading probiotic bacteria mixed with crop products to prolong shelf life.
    2. A spray that can detoxify AFB contaminated products to enhance crops viability.

2021 May
  1. Retailers suggestion - Convenient, quick & cheap
    Consumers concern - Food safety and appearance
    From the retailers’ perspective, our AFB-removing products have to be convenient, quick and cheap, while from the consumers’ point of view, food safety and appearance are the major concerns.

2021 May
  1. Ethical Matrix - Stakeholders Analysis
    We summarized the information gathered from the public, experts and our own research to tabulate an ethical matrix to analyze the well-being, autonomy and fairness of different stakeholders regarding our AFB-degrading products.

Stakeholders Well-being Autonomy Fairness
1. Farmers
  • High quality products
  • Prolonged shelf life
  • Minimize storage cost
  • Decontaminate food crops
  • Right to choose storage methods
  • Fair trade laws
  • New technology at reasonable price
2. Retailers
  • Enhance reputation
  • Ensure the safety of products
  • Minimize storage cost
  • Increased profits
  • Managerial freedom of action
  • Fair trade laws
3. Consumers
  • Food safety
  • Assurance of health (safe food)
  • Right to choose storage methods
  • Availability of products with expected quality
  • Government policy to guarantee food safety
4. The government
  • Higher revenue from higher tax income
  • Enhance food safety and reputation
  • Ability to improve people's welfare and develop new technology
  • Food storage policy on the use of AFB-degrading products
  • Fair policy to monitor farmers and retailers to protect consumers’ rights

According to the ethical matrix, our products are beneficial to farmers, retailers, consumers and the government. Two major aspects are shown:
  1. Prolonged storage of food crops
  2. Improved food safety

Hence, after analysing the well-being, autonomy and fairness from different stakeholders, our team decided to create two products to detoxify the AFB. They are:
  1. A probiotic method that applies probiotic E. coli which secretes high activity AFB-degrading enzymes for longer storage.
  2. A detoxifying spray that contains purified enzymes for AFB degradation in seeds.

2021 May to Aug
  1. Experiments and product development
    From May to August, we did experiments and developed our products.

2021 Sep
  1. Product modification - Recycled spray bottle
    After further discussion with the store owners, we further modified our products.

2021 Oct
  1. Public engagement and education
    After that, we introduced our work to the public and schoolmates.

    Presenting to the general public and our schoolmates.

2021 Oct
  1. Pitching to potential users - positive comments
    Besides, we pitched the ideas to the local store owners. They showed interest and gave positive feedback on our ideas.

    Moreover, from the consumers' survey on our probiotic method and detoxifying spray, around 90% of the consumers said that they would like to use our products regularly to ensure food safety. While over 80% of the interviewees believed that our product could enhance food safety by removing AFB1. That means consumers have confidence in the effectiveness of our products.

    However, around 60% of them showed worry about the side effects of our products. For example, complications, poisoning, allergies and upset stomachs were the common side effects mentioned by the interviewees. We can eliminate consumers’ doubts by telling them how our products are made, i.e. they are made by probiotics, which are good for our health.

    Results of our public survey on our products. (n=197)

Consumer Council. (2020, October 15). Nearly 20% of Popular Dried Spices Contain Carcinogenic Aflatoxins Producers Urged to Improve to Safeguard Consumer Health. Retrieved from

World Health Organization (WHO). (2018). Aflatoxins. Food Safety Digest, REF. No.: WHO/NHM/FOS/RAM/18.1, 1-5.