|Customers shop for vegetables at a supermarket in Ha Noi. Leading supermarket chains have suspended purchases from the Ba Chu Safe Vegetables Company after its duplicitous practices were exposed. — VNA/VNS Photo Huy Hung.
HA NOI (VNS) — Vegetables delivered by Ba Chu Safe Vegetables Co., Ltd. have been removed from display racks at BigC, Metro and Lotte Mart, the three biggest supermarket chains in Ha Noi, following a scandal over their origin.
Nong Nghiep Viet Nam (Viet Nam Agriculture) newspaper revealed on Tuesday that a truck owned by the Dong Anh District-based company frequently arrived at Minh Khai Market in Bac Tu Liem District in the early morning to buy vegetables, which it then delivered to a number of supermarkets in the city.
The vegetables picked up at the wholesale market reportedly included Chinese cabbage and herbs with unclear origin.
The truck was caught transporting the vegetables to Metro Thang Long on Pham Van Dong Street, BigC Thang Long on Tran Duy Hung Street and Lotte Mart on Tay Son Street as well as supermarkets on Nguyen Trai, Ha Dong, Truong Dinh and Hoang Mai streets.
BigC's Public Relations Director Ho Quoc Nguyen announced that the supermarket stopped purchasing goods from Ba Chu on Tuesday. Metro and Lotte Mart representatives also confirmed that purchases had been temporarily suspended.
"If there is evidence proving that the company violated food safety regulations, we will immediately terminate the contract," said Lotte Mart's representative.
Metro and Lotte Mart buy 700-1,000kg and 500-800kg of vegetables a day from Ba Chu respectively.
A Ba Chu worker acknowledged that the company provided vegetables to Metro, BigC and Lotte Mart but added, "What the newspapers reported is wrong."
Viet Nam News was not able to reach the company representative for more information.
Ha Noi Department of Plant Protection head Nguyen Duy Hong said that the department stopped issuing safe vegetable stamps for Ba Chu more than a year ago.
"They printed out the stamps by themselves," Hong said.
A recent inspection report from the department showed that the company was only able to grow about ten types of vegetables, yet according to BigC supermarket, Ba Chu offered to sell up to 104 varieties.
In March last year, Ba Chu was fined by the department and suspended from supermarkets for selling vegetables without clear origin. However, the supermarkets later resumed selling the company's products.
The department is co-operating with the police to investigate Ba Chu and the supermarket chains that sell the company's products.
No contaminated apples imported from US: MARD
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has confirmed that Viet Nam has not imported any contaminated apples from the United States.
The consumption of pre-packaged caramel apples has reportedly killed at least three persons in the US and caused 30 others to be hospitalised due to a possible infection caused by the listeria monocytogenes virus.
Over 98 per cent of all apples exported from the US to Viet Nam are sourced from Washington state. Other suppliers to the Vietnamese market include producers in California, New York, and Oregon, according to the US Embassy in Viet Nam.
On January 6, Bidart Brothers of Bakersfield, California had voluntarily recalled their Granny Smith and Gala brand apples because environmental testing revealed contamination by the listeria monocytogenes virus at the firm's apple packing facility.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local a
uthorities, is investigating the listeriosis (caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes) outbreak linked to commercially produced, pre-packaged whole caramel apples. The investigation is still ongoing, and no fresh apples have been associated with any other illnesses till date. — VNS