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Localities need to clean up food safety standards

Update: August, 03/2015 - 08:09
Authorities inspect poultry celling in the market. Cities and provinces should push for clean, safe agricultural products as Ha Noi and HCM City have done in recent years. — Photo vietnamplus.vn

HA NOI (VNS) — Cities and provinces should push for clean, safe agricultural products as Ha Noi and HCM City have done in recent years, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has said in a Government meeting.

Dam, also head of the Inter-ministerial Central Steering Committee for Food Safety, chaired the meeting last week with local authorities and other Government agencies to review food safety standard improvement efforts during the first half of the year.

The country recorded 90 known cases of food poisoning with 2,595 affected. Sixteen died, while more than 2,400 were hospitalised. The number of food poisoning cases and fatalities decreased, compared with the same period last year, which recorded 98 cases and 26 fatalities. Health authorities determined that the leading cause of death was the consumption of animals and plants that contained highly toxic substances such as toads, poisonous mushrooms and poisonous fish.

During the period, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, environmental police and other Government agencies inspected nearly 350,000 agricultural product suppliers nationwide. Of these, 68,025 violated the country's food safety regulations. The authorities collected VND23 billion (more than US$1 million) in fines and nearly 8,000 food samples were tested in 34 cities' and provinces' testing facilities.

The steering committee acknowledged positive steps taken to improve the country's food safety. It also spoke about numerous shortcomings, such as the lack of guidance on safety standards, the lack of co-operation between central and local agencies, and lax enforcement of food safety regulations.

Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said the public was concerned about food vendors' fraudulent, hazardous practices of food vendors such as abusing agricultural chemicals and expired products. They were also concerned about authorities' competence supervising and reinforcing safety regulations.

Dam told the meeting that stricter penalties needed to be imposed on vendors who were found repeatedly in violation of food safety regulations. He also urged ministries, localities and other Government agencies to perform a comprehensive review of their law-enforcement practices.

Representatives from Ha Noi and HCM City noted that in large cities, food safety inspections needed to be carried out around the clock and food safety standards needed to be reinforced regularly, especially for street food vendors.

The deputy PM urged ministries and other Government agencies to step up co-operation with Ha Noi and HCM City to tighten food safety regulations for agricultural products entering the cities, starting with major wholesale markets. He noted that the authorities must learn from practices currently employed by developed countries.

"We need a food safety awareness campaign in the media," he said. "We must understand that only through a combined effort by the authorities and the people can we produce positive results". — VNS

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