Ministers call for calm after preservative scare
HA NOI (VNS)— More foods have been discovered to contain chemical preservatives. However, it should not be assumed that these substances are harmful to human health, according to statements made by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in a conference on food safety and hygiene yesterday.
|Dried bamboo shoots are displayed at HCM City's Binh Tay Market. More foods have been discovered to contain chemical preservatives, including dried food. — VNA/VNS Photo Hong Thuy
Testing revealed that 50 samples of fresh and dried bamboo sprouts in Ha Noi and provinces of Hoa Binh, Lang Son, Quang Ninh and Thanh Hoa contained heavy metals as well as cyanide, sulphur and sunfite.
Nguyen Xuan Hong, director of the ministry's Plant Protection Department, said it was wrong to assume that chemical usage in agricultural products was bad, as many countries use chemicals to keep their products fresh longer.
Hong mentioned the common practice of using sulphur to dry agricultural products as an example. Other countries, he said, have set limits on sulphur usage for every kind of food.
Viet Nam should soon release similar official guidelines specifying the legal limit for chemical preservatives used in food and what types of food can use these preservatives, he said.
Nguyen Nhu Tiep of the ministry's Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Department shared Hong's frame of mind, stating that an inspection by the U.S Food and Drug Administration last month showed that most Vietnamese enterprises which export dried fruits and grains to the U.S meet its food safety standards.
And an inspection by EU monitors proved that Viet Nam's food safety controls for seafood meet the EU standards as well, he said.
However, Deputy Minister Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu said it was necesary to increase food inspections next month because there remain many shortcomings in food quality management. Illegal food traders continue to take advantage of loopholes in the license granting process to trade unregistered food.
The ministry would focus on strictly monitoring the production of fresh vegetables, dried cuttle fish and honey, she said.
Minister Cao Duc Phat had also asked the department to provide a list of foods that have a high risk of not meeting food safety and hygiene standards. "These foods will be inspected more closely, and the list will also be published for consumers," he said — VNS