(VNS) Head of the Plant Protection Department Nguyen Xuan Hong spoke to Nong thon ngay nay (Countryside Today) newspaper about the threat of pesticides used on vegetable imports.
As an importer, what is Viet Nam's response to recent reports over the use of a highly toxic pesticide called Aldicard in growing ginger in China's Shangdong Provice?
As soon as learning about the problem, Viet Nam tightened up inspections of ginger from China. The Plant Protection Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development collected and tested 50 ginger samples in 10 major markets in Ha Noi and HCM City. Only one from HCM City's Binh Dien Market was found to contain Aldicard with concentration of 0.06 parts per million, three times higher than allowed under CODEX, the international food standards set by the World Trade Organisation and Food and Agriculture Organisation.
The concentration is also 1.2 times higher than that allowed by the European Union and Japan.
However, people weighing 50 kilos would feel the effects only if they ate three kilos of the ginger in a day.
The toxic concentration is not too serious. Our department has added Aldicard on a list of substances in vegetables to be checked before entering Viet Nam. At present, Aldicard is not allowed because of its high toxicity which has strong effects on human mental capacity.
How much ginger does Viet Nam import from China?
From the beginning of this year, more than 700 tonnes of Chinese ginger was imported to Viet Nam through border gates in HCM City, northern Lang Son and Lao Cai Province.
The imported ginger is not as scented and pungent as domestic product, but looks bigger and better. Restaurants usually prefer the imported ginger which helps their dishes look better. Ginger is also used to make jam.
Chinese ginger is mostly imported to Viet Nam in the final months of year. The amount is a few thousand tonnes, quite modest when compared to the import of other farming products, including apples, pears and oranges.
Inspections over the import of Chinese ginger are being tightened. What about other imported vegetables?
Fruit and vegetables from China have to undergo tests to verify the concentrations of 15 substances before entering Viet Nam. Now, we focus on apples, pears, oranges, melons and grapes, which Viet Nam imports most.
At present, about 1,200 chemical substances are used in cultivation in the world. In Viet Nam, we assess the risk posed by substances and then add them to the list under scrutiny.
Do you have any advice for consumers to avoid poisoning caused by Aldicard?
The concentration of the toxin in imported ginger in Viet Nam is not high and daily ginger consumption is not as much as those of other vegetable and fruit. So, consumers should not worry much.
The pesticide mostly remains in ginger peel and easily dissolves in water. People should carefully peel and wash the ginger before using it. — VNS