Most areas fail to inspect food safety
|A joint inspection team between the Veterinary Sub-department in central Thanh Hoa Province and the management board of Tay Thanh Market in the province's Thanh Hoa City check poultry sold at the market. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue
HA NOI (VNS)— Officials yesterday raised the alarm over violations in the management of food safety, including the producing and processing of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products.
They voiced special concern regarding quality and shortages of inspection staff at the grassroots levels.
A report at a meeting in Ha Noi yesterday revealed that most localities throughout the country had not seriously made regular evaluations of providers of agricultural materials and products.
Further, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), there were only 12 out of 63 localities nationwide that submitted reports about inspections last month. Also, the reports sent back showed that all units providing preliminary processing to animal products were rated as weak and were operating in poor conditions.
"Even when they are re-checked again and again, low-rated units do not improve," said Nguyen Nhu Tiep, director of the MARD's National Agro – Forestry – Fisheries Quality Assurance Department.
Tiep added that the reason was because of the weak abilities of inspectors at grassroots levels and shortages of staff to perform this work.
"In some localities, the punishment for violations is just a small administrative fine, while the origin and the quality of violated products have not been thoroughly looked at," he said.
Agreeing with Tiep, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu admitted that inspectors at grassroots levels were not fully trained and the money needed for inspections was very limited.
Thu cited the cases of low-quality materials, such as pesticides and fertilizers, that had been discovered recently.
"We have been focusing too much on what kind of pesticides should be used or how to use them, but the information did not go to farmers, so they continue to use them inappropriately," she said.
Thu said that while insecticides offered many benefits, providers encouraged farmers to use increasing amounts, which caused losses to farmers, environmental pollution, as well as harmed food safety.
The Deputy Director of the Plant Protection Department, Ngo Tien Dung, blamed the management of local authorities, whom he said had put all the responsibilities on local plant protection workers.
"Local authorities must be the ones to manage and help farmers in ensuring that the correct chemicals and correct methods are used," he said.
"Right now, it is estimated that there are about three plant protection workers in each district, so it is out of their reach to take charge, in all aspects, from pesticides and fertilisers to food safety," he added.
According to Nguyen Xuan Dinh, deputy director of cultivation, it was very difficult to advise farmers to change from using current pesticides to safer biological brands.
"Farmers normally want to see the effect on insects immediately, so they prefer toxic pesticides, rather than biological ones which slowly kill insects," he said.
"Also, instructions from the ministry on the use of safe insecticides and the promotion of food safety are normally difficult for farmers to understand," he said. — VNS