|Animal health department staff inspect a livestock feed shop in Bac Giang Province. The Ministry of Agriculture plans to tighten administrative punishment for the use of banned substances in animal husbandry . — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue
HA NOI (VNS) — The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) is proposing to stiffen administrative punishments for both the use of banned substances in animal husbandry and for slaughtering and processing animals containing banned substances.
Violators will be subject to a fine of up to VND100million (US$4,450).
The change follows a series of recent violations discovered by authorised agencies.
According to the ministry, current regulations are not strict enough for food safety violators. Supplements and amendments to the current administrative punishments are necessary.
The new Criminal Code approved by the National Assembly last year takes effect on July 1 this year. It stipulates that individuals, organisations or enterprises using banned substances in food production will be considered criminals as of July. This is a big change from the previous Criminal Code, which made it difficult to prove this kind of violation was a criminal act.
MARD's draft proposal suggests that the penalties for slaughtering and processing animals which contain banned substances increase to between VND15million ($667) to VND20million ($889) from the current fines of VND10million ($445) to VND15million ($670).
If farm households use banned substances and if the chemical levels then present in the animals do not exceed legal levels, violators will be subject to a cash penalty equal to 80 to 100 per cent of the animals' value at the time of the violation.
A fine equal to 100 to 120 per cent of the animals' value will be applied to breeding farms committing similar violations.
The highest fine will be up to VND100million in such cases. Violators will also need to dispose of all banned substances and feed products containing these illegal substances, if they wish to continue their business operations.
Only animals uncontaminated by banned substances can be sold or slaughtered. If the violation is repeated, tainted animals will be destroyed, according to the draft proposal and MARD.
Sellers of animal feed products not legally authorised as food by Vietnamese law and State agencies will pay a fine of VND10million to VND15million.
The ministry also proposed more severe punishments for those intentionally injecting or feeding water or anything illegal to animals before and after slaughtering, aiming to increase animals' apparent weight. Governmental resolution No 119/2013/ND-CP authorises a penalty of VND5million ($222) to VND6million ($267) for this kind of violation.
The amended draft proposes a fine of 40 to 60 per cent of the animals' value at the time of the violation, with a cap of VND50million ($2,220).
The detailed draft proposal on the issue is currently open for public opinion on the ministry's website at mard.gov.vn.
Viet Nam Television (VTV) conducted short interviews with experts and customers about these issues. Most people interviewed are not totally satisfied with the changes. They said that penalties should be stricter.
Nguyen Dinh Tuong, head of the Animal Breeding Department of Hung Yen's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, says that any level of chemical contamination must be banned. His comment addresses current regulations which allow certain percentages of these otherwise banned substances in animals.
Le Huong Lan, a housewife in Ha Noi's Dong Da District, says that the use of banned substances helps farmers to shorten breeding times from eight or nine months to only three or four months. This increases their profits by up to hundreds of millions of dong each day. A fine of VND100million is nothing, compared to such profits.
Nguyen Thi Mai Hang from Dong Da District also agrees on the need for stricter penalties. Using banned substances is poisoning customers on purpose, she says, adding the business licences of such violators must be revoked and they must face criminal charges.
In a related development, MARD will increase unannounced inspections to crack down on the use of banned antibiotics and substances in animal husbandry and aquaculture.
This was announced by Nguyen Van Viet, MARD chief inspector, at a meeting on inspection work. The move aims to improve the quality of Viet Nam's exports and ensure food safety for customers.
He said the sector would expand inspections to discover gangs that buy and sell fake or poor-quality fertilisers and illegally imported pesticides.
Fertiliser and pesticide samples would be taken and a list of violating factories and production bases would be published, he said.
Regarding aquaculture inspections, Nguyen Ngoc Oai, deputy head of the Directorate of Fisheries, said occasional inspections were not effective. This year, the directorate will receive reports from the public through a hotline and petitions, and conduct surprise inspections to ensure positive changes. — VNS