HA NOI (VNS)— To sell food on the street, vendors will soon have to undergo mandatory health checks and training courses on food hygiene and safety.
|A street vendor prepares food with her bare hands.Vendors will have to undergo health checks and training courses on food hygiene and safety under a new requirement from the Health Ministry. — VNA/VNS Photo Khanh Linh
The new requirement, part of a Ministry of Health decree that goes into effect in January, is one of a slew of regulations that force street food vendors to meet stricter standards on where ingredients come from and how they are used.
Vendors must now purchase raw ingredients with a clear origin, keeping the bills of sale in order to prove where the food comes from, said Deputy Minister of Health Pham Thanh Long.
Street food sold in public and crowded areas such as bus and railway stations, tourism sites, festivals and exhibitions must be clearly separated from polluted areas. Food carts are required to provide hygienic eating utensils and to separate raw and cooked food. Vendors must have glass shelves at least 60cm from the ground to protect ingredients from sun, rain, dust and insects. And they must use disposable gloves when preparing food and drinks.
Authorised agencies will inspect street food vendors two to four times annually, the vice minister said. They will also conduct inspections at random.
Nguyen Thu Ba, owner of a noodle stall in Phan Huy Chu Street, said that during her five years on the street, not a single customer had ever asked where her noodles come from.
"It seems that I have to do a lot to meet all the standards. I purchase noodles, meat and vegetables at a market near my place, and they don't give me any bills," she said.
Ba's bamboo-framed food cart has never invited the scrutiny of food safety inspectors. "Sometimes local policemen come by to clear the street, but I always return after they're gone," she said.
Kevin Smith, a British man who has lived in Viet Nam for four years, said he, like many expats, has gotten food poisoning from eating street food several times.
"It is much better if vendors are under control, as both tourists and locals enjoy street food due to its reasonable price and variety of options," he said.
According to the ministry's Department of Food Hygiene and Safety, about 165 cases of food poisoning have occurred this year, killing 33 people – about three times as many as last year.
The causes of food poisoning were micro-organisms, natural poison and chemicals.
The ministry has established ten inspection teams to improve food hygiene and safety from now until the lunar New Year Festival. — VNS