National Assembly Committee on Science, Technology and Environment member Phung Duc Tien spoke to Thoi bao Kinh te Viet Nam (Vietnam Economic Times) about food safety and pollution concerns.
Concern over food quality has been raised in National Assembly meetings. What are your comments?
We cannot be indifferent to this issue. Customers are being threatened by the illegal smuggling of everything from onions and garlic to animal's innards, which are then widely sold in the market.
Besides competing with local agricultural enterprises, smuggling can also lead to disease outbreaks and food quality problems.
A test on bean sprouts showed 40 per cent of the samples contained a high level of micro-organisms that cause digestive diseases.
Ministry of Health statistics indicate there have been more than 900 food poisoning cases in the last five years, affecting over 3,700 people, including 229 deaths. Toxic food may even lead to a lowering of the intellectual level of the community and the nation.
It's hard to find safe food to eat and healthy air to breathe. Is the environment threatening our lives?
Yes, environment pollution is a problem. Inspections have shown more than 11,000 cases of violations of environment regulations in four years from 2007. The latest report on the national environment says problems in the treatment of solid waste in urban, industrial and even rural areas has become problematic.
Solid waste has increased by 10 per cent a year with 46 per cent coming from urban areas and 17 per cent from industrial production. The figures are estimated to increase to 51 and 22 per cent respectively by 2015. Meanwhile, hazardous solid waste accounts for 18-25 per cent from each area.
A survey to be released by the agriculture and rural development ministry shows that every year the rural area produces 13 million tonnes of garbage, 1.3 billion cubic metres of waste water and 7,500 tonnes of used pesticide packs. Eighty per cent of the waste is untreated and directly dump-ed into the environment.
From our observation, the environment at handicraft villages has become seriously polluted. In villages dealing with metal, the rate of people suffering from neurological and respiratory diseases and cancers accounts is very high.
People in villages dealing with agricultural and food products are also suffering digestive, dermatological, respiratory and eye diseases.
All the figures show environmental pollution is serious in all fields.
Is it too much to link such problems to the nation's intellectual level?
I would agree with even a stronger perception since all the problems have become very serious while we have not shown appropriate concern.
Take the example of animal and poultry slaughter, which has risks for food safety and hygiene.
Since April this year, the agriculture ministry has asked all localities to review and evaluate slaughterhouses. However, only 53 out of 63 cities and provinces have finished the report. Of the 815 slaughterhouses reported, only 41 or about 5 per cent ranked level A, which meets all requirements in food safety and hygiene. — VNS