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Taught Postgraduate Programme

MSc in the field of Food Safety and Toxicology



Students are expected to have basic knowledge in physiology, biochemistry, chemistry or molecular biology for understanding the topics covered in the programme. The programme is intended for those with relevant experience in the food, chemical, pharmaceutical and public health sectors, including but not limited to:

  • supervisory positions in the above industries or consultancy;
  • environmental, food and health officers, technical officers in local/national regulatory authorities;
  • officers in diagnostic or analytical laboratories; and
  • graduates who completed relevant undergraduate degrees, looking for career opportunity in the above industries/government agencies.

To be eligible for admission to the programme you should have a Bachelor's degree with honours in science. Preference will be given to those who possess a Bachelor’s degree in physiology, biochemistry, biotechnology, food science, chemistry, biological sciences, clinical laboratory science, environmental sciences, pharmacology or other related disciplines.

For 2022-23 intake:

Application will be opened in late December 2021. The closing dates for non-local and local applications is 12:00nn (HKT), April 29, 2022. Applications can be submitted via our on-line application system here.

Fees for 2022-23 intake:

The composition fee for the programme for the 2022-23 intake is HK$140,000*. Payment can be paid in two instalments.

In addition, students are required to pay Caution Money (HK$350, refundable on graduation subject to no claims being made) and Graduation Fee (HK$350).

The University allows Occasional Students to enroll in individual courses without registering in any particular programme of study. Tuition fee for an Occasional Student is HK$2,030* per credit in the academic year 2022-23. 

* Subject to approval


Established by the School of Biological Sciences in 2009, the MSc in the field of Food Safety and Toxicology programme aims to provide a comprehensive training on a multi-disciplinary field involving general toxicology, food toxicology, regulatory toxicology, and food safety management.  The distinctive feature of this toxicology programme is its focus on food safety perspectives.  It emphasizes on basic knowledge as well as practical skills in recognition and evaluation of human exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals and pathogens, in our living environment and via intake of foods.  Special reference will be made to food safety evaluation and regulation.



Written work forms an important part of the programme. All written and verbal communication is in English. Most courses in the programme are assessed by examination and by coursework. The project report will be assessed by examiners and participation in the seminars at which students present their work is one of the requirements for the completion of this component of the degree curriculum.

All courses in this programme are compulsory. A candidate shall be examined shortly after the completion of each course.


A. Programme Structure

Programme Structure of the Full-time Mode:
Year 1 (69 credits)
FSTX7001 Principles of toxicology I (9 credits)
FSTX7002 Principles of toxicology II (9 credits)
FSTX7003 Toxicity tests and hazards evaluation methods (9 credits)
FSTX7004 Regulatory toxicology: risk assessment, risk management and communication (12 credits)
FSTX8005 Chemical and microbial hazards in food (9 credits)
FSTX8006 Food safety management (9 credits)
FSTX8007 Project (12 credits)



B. Course contents

Core Courses

FSTX7001  Principles of toxicology I (9 credits)

This module introduces students to the general principles and practice of toxicology.  The major focus of the course is on basic principles, mechanisms and common methods underpinning the science of toxicology.  Selected target organ systems (e.g. respiratory, nervous and immune systems) are studied with respect to understanding how representative chemicals damage and impair their ability to function. Students will develop a fundamental understanding of how chemicals may exert toxic effects and gain insight into the importance of organ-specific toxicity.


Assessment: Course work (25%); Examination (75%)

FSTX7002  Principles of toxicology II (9 credits)

This module continues to introduce students to the general principles and practice of toxicology.  The course continues to focus on basic principles, mechanisms and common methods underpinning the science of toxicology. Selected toxicants are studied with respect to their source of exposure and mechanisms of effects. Selected disease processes (e.g., mutagenesis, carcinogenesis, reproductive toxicity, teratogenesis and developmental toxicity) are studied with respect to understanding their basic pathways and common mechanisms.  Selected fields are presented to give students insight into the applications of toxicology and its relationship with other fields.


Assessment: Course work (20%); Examination (80%)

FSTX7003  Toxicity tests and hazards evaluation  methods (9 credits)

This module will provide students with the current state-of-the-art methodology employed to investigate the effect of chemical and microbial toxins and environmental pollutants on living systems.  Topics include exposure estimate, animal tests for acute toxicity, short-term and long-term toxicity, for mutagenicity, genotoxicity and carcinogenicity, for reproductive toxicity, teratogenicity, developmental toxicity and delayed neurotoxicity.  Major focus is on the basic principles underpinning each test method including the test rationale, protocol design, limitations and data interpretation.  Students will also be introduced to the basic concepts of toxicological evaluation and criteria for setting guidance values for dietary and non-dietary exposure to chemicals.  The role of biochemical, metabolic and toxicokinetic studies in toxicological evaluation is also considered.


Assessment: Course work (20%); Examination (80%)

FSTX7004 Regulatory toxicology: risk assessment, risk management and communication (12 credits)

In order to fully appreciate risks that arise from human exposure to chemicals in our living environment, it is essential to quantify levels of chemical contamination in environmental media and foods, and estimate total chemical exposure from dietary and non-dietary sources. This module will provide students with intensive training to develop the necessary practical skills to measure and model the extent to which human populations come into contact with toxic agents in the environment and foods, to conduct qualitative and quantitative risk assessments, to set safe levels of chemical exposure in foods (based on local food consumption patterns), and to implement effective risk management in protecting human health and the environment. The roles of international food safety authorities such as WHO, FAO, Codex Alimentarius Commission, JECFA, IARC and OECD will be described. Introduction to local and international food laws will be provided.


Assessment: Course work (20%); Examination (80%)

FSTX8005  Chemical and microbial hazards in food (9 credits)

This module will introduce students to the chemical and microbial hazards in food and their effects on human health. Special reference is made to heavy metals, pesticides, food additives, persistent organic pollutants and natural food contaminants of current public concern. An emphasis will also be placed on developing the understanding of the actual impact of food and waterborne pathogens, their epidemiology and factors contributing to the increase in their incidence. Determination of exposure pathways and linking food hazards to human health is the primary focus.  Topics include: contamination monitoring, quantification of exposure at the individual level, interactive effects of exposure to multiple risk factors, perceptions of risk and integration of laboratory science with population-based studies.


Assessment: Course work (20%); Examination (80%)

FSTX8006  Food safety management (9 credits)

Good manufacturing practice has a significant impact on the daily operation of a food processing facility.  Quality products and a safe work place are important components of a good company. This course will focus on issues arising from GMP and aspects of the physical design of a food processing facility which impact the safety of workers and products. In food supply chain, traceability is the ability to follow the movement of a food product through the stages of production, processing, and distribution, and is an important component of the food safety management system. As a core quality management tool in the food industry, the relevance, impact and use of ISO 22000 and HACCP in manufacturing and catering will be discussed. Topics covered will include the international/national HACCP standards, and designing safety into food products and processes as well as the practical development and implementation of a HACCP Plan using local and Asian case studies.


Assessment: Course work (20%); Examination (80%)

FSTX8007  Project (12 credits) [Capstone experience]

All students are required to undertake to attend training (up to maximum 6 months) in one of the following areas:

  • Academic institutions, to carry out basic research project using the most advanced techniques in molecular biology, analytical chemistry and biomedical sciences.
  • Food, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, to overlook industry procedures on ensuring that the emerging/newly developed food and chemical products meet regulatory standards and requirements and are safe for consumers; their potential health implications, and
  • Government agencies, to gain knowledge on the procedures implemented by the local/national authorities in formulating science-based policies, laws and regulations to ensure the safe production and use of food and chemicals.

The candidate shall make a formal presentation on the subject of his training during the final semester of the teaching programme.  

Assessment:  Course work (100%)

Programme Director

Dr Hani S El-Nezami 
Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences
BSc (Alexandria University, Egypt), MAppSc, PhD (RMIT-University, Australia)


After obtaining his PhD in Applied and Nutritional Toxicology from RMIT-University, Melbourne, Australia, Dr El-Nezami moved to the University of Kuopio, Finland, where he established a research programme investigating human exposure to food toxins with special focus on mycotoxins in developing countries. The programme later extended to investigate dietary approaches to counteract the health hazards associated with exposure to food toxins. In recognition of his research excellence Dr El-Nezami was awarded the prestigious Academy of Finland Fellowship. In 2008, Dr El-Nezami joined the School of Biological Sciences of The University of Hong Kong.

Dr El-Nezami holds an adjunct Professor post at the University of Turku, Finland, and Misr University for Science and Technology, Egypt. Dr El-Nezami is the Assistant Coordinator of consortium (9 EU countries plus China and Hong Kong) funded by the European Union aiming at the modernization of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Being an active member of the Finnish Society of Toxicology, Eurotox, and the American Society of Microbiology, Dr El-Nezami serves as consultants for several firms in Finland and Egypt.

Programme Manager

Dr Stephanie W Y Ma
Lecturer, School of Biological Sciences
BSc, MSc (HK), PhD (Br Col)


Dr Ma graduated with a PhD in Physiology from the Medical School, University of British Columbia, Canada. She worked as a Research Scientist at the National Research Council of Canada and a Senior Toxicologist at Health Canada for over 16 years, before returning to Hong Kong in 1996. Dr Ma served as a Senior Environmental Protection Officer of the Environmental Protection Department (1996 - 2008) and Senior Food Toxicologist of the Centre for Food Safety, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (2008 - 2013) in the Hong Kong SAR Government. She has been an Honorary Associate Professor / Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences.

Dr Ma has extensive experience in conducting research in chemical toxicology, in toxicological evaluation and safety assessment of chemicals to human health, and in policy development for the control and management of toxic chemicals. She served as an Advisor to various international Food Safety Organizations including the Joint Meeting of Pesticide Residues and the International Programme on Chemical Safety, WHO.

    Graduate/ Student Sharing

    Vivian Wai Wan CHOI

    Vivian Wai Wan CHOI

    Class of 2021


    "HKU’s MSc in Food Safety and Toxicology is an intriguing programme. With an initial interest in nutrition, this programme instills novel ideas into my understanding on health-related issues by broadening my horizons on toxicology through academic discussions with scholars and government officials around the globe. Sincerest gratitude should be expressed towards all HKU Food and Nutritional Science faculty members and the MSc programme manager. Their valuable academic and career advice are my sources of inspiration to realise my full potential. My current success in entering the field of regulatory toxicology would not be achieved without their patient guidance, unwavering support and encouragement."

    Sharon Shiu Nam TANG

    Sharon Shiu Nam TANG

    Class of 2021


    "This programme is the best in teaching principles and the invaluable role of toxicology in food safety. It suits people like me who seek a more practical ground of science as career choice. The final project was also a great opportunity for me to gain valuable research experience and understood the nano-risk in food industry. A shame I cannot be divided in half to conduct another project, which involves developing HACCP/ISO22000 in a real food factory. Overall, it was a joyful and fruitful ride. I met great people, friends and a good partner, as well as many companies waiting for new FSTX graduates. I hope the last line may get your attention."




    Dr Hani S El-Nezami 

    Programme Director 

    School of Biological Sciences

    Dr Stephanie W Y Ma

    Programme Manager

    School of Biological Sciences

    School of Biological Sciences

    The University of Hong Kong


    Faculty of Science

    The University of Hong Kong

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