HCM CITY — Improving awareness of food hygiene and safety, especially among women, is key to reducing the incidence of food poisoning, Tran Thanh Binh, deputy chairwoman of the Viet Nam Women's Union, has said.
Speaking at a workshop organised by the union and the Viet Nam Food Administration in HCM City yesterday, Binh explained that women account for 50 per cent of the population and have a predominant role in making food and caring for the family.
"If they are provided the right information and scientific knowledge about choosing and processing food, they would be good to educate the public about food safety and hygiene," she said.
The workshop aims to encourage women to say no to unsafe food and additives.
Nguyen Thanh Phong, the administration's deputy head, warned that using additives not permitted by the Ministry of Health and overusing even approved ones could cause food poisoning.
For example, one gramme of borax, used illegally to keep certain foods fresh, could cause diarrhoea and vomiting, while 15gramme of it could cause death, he said.
All over the world additives are widely used. The Codex Committee on Food Additives, an international body that regulates the use of additives, allows the use of 700 kinds of additives and more than 2,000 kinds of condiments in food.
Viet Nam allows 337 additives and condiments.
Only 5-10 per cent of additives consumed in the country was manufactured domestically, Phong said, with the rest imported.
"Large volumes of additives are smuggled into the country, and monitoring it is a difficult task," he said.
He urged people selling additives in the market not to sell them without certificates of origin and safety.
They should ask imported companies to show these certificates, he said. And they should learn knowledge about the safe use of additives to guide buyers, he added.
Many delegates called on authorities to slap stiff penalties on violators.
But Phong said penalties can only be imposed on sellers and it would not prevent people from buying unsafe additives.
At the workshop, the management of Kim Bien Market in the city's District 5 and local shopkeepers signed a pledge to only sell permitted additives and those with clear origins. — VNS