Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — City officials at a workshop yesterday in HCM City urged passage of a new regulation that would separate the sale of food additives and industrial chemicals within shops to prevent the sale of fraudulent or banned substances.
At the workshop on chemical abuse in breeding and food processing, Nguyễn Hữu Hưng, deputy head of the city’s Department of Health, said that food additives were sold alongside industrial chemicals at many shops, causing confusion for city inspectors who have oversight of such goods.
Some of the sellers also are not knowledgeable about usage of these chemicals and sometimes are not even aware of the differences between the substances, according to the Health Department’s food safety and hygiene division.
Kim Biên Market, the chief market for such substances, sells many kinds of chemicals and additives, with a total of 17 traders. Some of the chemicals are banned from trade by the government.
Hưng said the Department of Trade and Industry had been told to improve monitoring of illegal sales at the shops at Kim Biên Market.
Besides strict oversight of banned substances, the city will also expand safe food chains as the city buys 70 per cent of its food products from other provinces.
Phan Xuân Thảo, head of the city’s Animal Health Division, said that consumers should not be overly concerned about food safety as the quality of pork, beef, buffalo and poultry meat was ensured as the division monitored slaughterhouses at 24 establishments that meet standards.
Meat from provinces such as Đồng Nai, Bình Thuận and Vũng Tàu has been checked and found safe, he said.
Meat sold at traditional markets also meets standards because their management boards usually maintain strict control of trading.
“Problems occur at illegal small markets near streets, especially areas with a lot of workers,” he said, adding that it was difficult to ensure quality and control.
About 85 per cent of consumers in the country buy food at markets, including small markets, according to the Việt Nam Retailers Association. The rest buy food at supermarkets and convenience stores.
Thảo suggested that the city call for investment from the private sector to sell food at cheap prices for workers.
Phạm Thị Huân, director of Ba Huân Co. Ltd, a manufacturer of safe eggs, said that workers found it difficult to access safe meals provided by food caterers and their company kitchens.
“This is harmful for the health of workers at industrial parks and processing export zones. They should step up management of food safety and hygiene at these areas,” Huân said.
The city has 280,000 workers at industrial parks and processing export zones that use processed meals by food caterers every day, according to the city Food Safety and Hygiene.
Five food poisoning cases have occurred in the area since 2012, including one case in which 49 people were hospitalized for treatment.
Of the five cases, 80 per cent were because of contaminated food. Food processing, transportation and storage failed to meet hygiene regulations.
Some vegetables and meat provided to kitchens were also deemed unsafe.
The price for a meal at such places are between VNĐ10,000 (US$0.4) and VNĐ13,000.
A law with severe penalties for violators of food safety and hygiene will come into effect next year. Violators could be sentenced up to 20 years in jail. —VNS