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HCM City toughens penalties for street food safety violations

Update: January, 14/2016 - 09:03
A street food stall sells fried fish balls in HCM City. The city's Department of Health instructed relevant agencies to severely penalise small food stores and vendors on streets who continue to flout safety and hygiene regulations.— VNS Photo Anh Hieu

HCM CITY (VNS) — The HCM City Department of Health instructed relevant agencies to severely penalise small food stores and vendors on streets who continue to flout safety and hygiene regulations.

Speaking at a workshop on this issue in HCM City yesterday, its deputy head, Nguyen Huu Hung, said when a person starts to sell food on the street, they should have the requisite knowledge and equipment to ensure food safety.

They have to comply with 10 conditions like finding a hygienic selling place, covering and storing food hygienically, and using single-use gloves and devices for handling food, he said.

Relevant local agencies should guide them and verify compliance frequently, he said.

Fines are seldom imposed, and most violators get away with warnings, he said.

"Selling on the street is a long-standing and typical aspect of the country's food culture. It is difficult to stop. It is important to manage it to ensure food safety and hygiene. It is the responsibility of city agencies, including the health sector."

Each district should choose one or two wards to set up a standard model for selling food on streets like District 3's Ward 2 and Binh Tan District's An Lac A, and gradually it should be expanded throughout the district, he said.

In these two wards, the local people's committees co-operated with the HCM City Food Safety and Hygiene Division to establish the model in November 2014.

Nguyen Thi Huynh Mai, the division's deputy head, said in the beginning they provided the food sellers with equipment like standard dustbins, medical-quality masks, gloves, and others for them to comply with the 10 criteria and form hygienic habits.

Then the sellers were provided training in food safety and hygiene during processing and selling, she said.

They also had to undergo health tests, she said.

The division supplied two sets of devices for instant testing of food to local agencies, she said.

Many sellers now comply with the ten criteria, she added.

There are 203 small food stores on streets in the two locations.

But with the administrative costs being VND30 million (US$1,333) a year for each ward, it is difficult to expand the model throughout the city, which has 322 wards, Hung said.

Districts should find a way to manage without the city's assistance, he said.

Another problem could be the shortage of health staff exclusively to manage street foods, he added. — VNS

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