HA NOI (VNS)— Up to 40 per cent of tested bean sprout samples sold in Ha Noi's markets are infected with harmful bacteria, including E.coli, prompting national food safety officials to call for tightened controls on raw vegetables.
|Yen Phu Market in Ha Noi's Tay Ho District. Bean sprouts and vegetables in Ha Noi's markets have been tested for bacteria contamination. — VNA/VNS Photo Huu Oai
Head of the Plant Protection Department Nguyen Xuan Hong announced the result at a meeting yesterday following a test conducted on 50 bean sprout samples to check their Arsenic and bacteria levels.
Hong said the test proved the samples were safe from metalloid, but the high amount of micro-organisms on the product raised concern.
The micro-organisms, namely E.coli, Salmonella and Listeria, were found to be at an unsafe lavel for raw vegetables, which can lead to food poisoning.
According to Hong, the world has reported 46 severe cases of food poisoning related to micro-organisms since 1996.
He also said bacterial infection occurred on sprouts at various stages, ranging from seed processing and the use of water source to the unhygienic practice of producers and sellers.
"We have so far taken heeds on chemical residue on grown vegetables, not bacteria on ready-to-eat sprouts, which actually contain a higher risk of infection," Hong said.
He warned consumers to eat well-cooked sprouts instead of raw ones, even after being soaked in salty water, which hardly kills bacteria.
Last month, the department detected bean sprouts from seven big producers in HCM City contaminated with dangerous chemicals originating from China.
The news has led to the ministry requesting localities to keep a close eye on producing and consuming sprouts.
Accordingly, Ha Noi yesterday issued an official letter to local concerned agencies to increase checks with stricter punishments for traders and producers who violate the warning.
Chinese fruits unsafe
Also at yesterday's meeting, the department disclosed that a month-long inspection from August 10 found that three types of fruit - grapes, plums and pomegranates - imported from China through Lang Son Border Gate violated food safety rules.
The department said it would step up checks and test Chinese grapes, potatoes and other black listed products.
Agriculture minister Cao Duc Phat told the meeting that though only 8-10 per cent of vegetables in Viet Nam tested postive for chemical residue, it was necessary to corner the most affected products for better control.
He also urged for the implementation of a clearer labelling system on safe vegetables in order to help build trust among consumers.
"People will pay higher prices if they know for sure the clear and safe origin of the product. The ministry can help enterprises to certify their vegetables," Phat said.
He also agreed with the Crop Cultivation Department to work with relevant agencies to map out technical standards in producing sprouts. The ministry's Department for Science and Technology was assigned to allocate funding to undertake the work.
The minister also suggested building up a network of collaborators in detecting cases related to food safety and disseminating information among various agencies and localities.
He explained that though the inspection undertaken by Government officials was necessary, malpractice sometimes hindered accurate assessments.
In regard to imported products, he asked for continued drastic action against violators with proper application of international rules, which include an import ban after three warnings. — VNS