Food safety needs improvement

May 24, 2016 - 09:00

Head of the Việt Nam General Council of Agriculture and Rural Development Hồ Xuân Hùng speaks to the Nông thôn ngày nay (Countryside Today) newspaper about food safety in Việt Nam

Head of the Việt Nam General Council of Agriculture and Rural Development Hồ Xuân Hùng
Viet Nam News

People are worried after seeing recent reports of unsafe food, particularly the use of banned substances in breeding. What do you think about the food safety issue in Việt Nam?

When it comes to food safety, several stages are involved including planting, cultivation or breeding, harvesting, storage, processing and creating meals. However, consumers, food firms and even those working in the food safety sector have not been sufficiently aware of food safety. That explains why farmers used to spray their crops with the pesticide Vofatoc or mix DDT with their bare hands without knowing they are highly toxic substances.

I’m concerned to know that some farmers apply two different methods to tend their gardens: one garden without pesticide to serve their own families, and the other with intensive pesticides for sale. Some firms sell banned substances to make profits despite knowing that the substances are harmful to people.

We cannot address the unsafe food issue properly if food producers do business for their benefit only, without caring about others. This is not only a matter of law enforcement, but also of morality, public health and the well-being of the nation’s future generations.

However, we should not hastily blame the problem on farmers. One major cause of the rampant sale of unsafe food is a lack of regulations and punishments that are strong and strict enough to deter violators.

What do you think about the role of media in the fight against food safety violations?

I appreciate the active and positive moves from the media in communicating the food safety issue and helping agencies detect and crack down on violations. However, sometimes, excessive reports cause fear and confusion among the public. In my opinion, it’s time for media agencies to focus on helping to raise awareness about the harm of banned substances and pesticides. Let’s help food producers recognise that they sell unsafe vegetables, but also possibly buy unsafe meat.

Those working in food safety sectors such as food inspectors and animal health or plant protection officers must strictly follow the law.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Nông thôn ngày nay (Countryside Today) newspaper launched the programme “Green outlets – Safe farm products”, announcing the addresses of 69 stores nationwide that are certified to provide food products that meet safety requirements. What do you think about the programme?

It’s a good programme that has received positive feedback from the public. The announcement of 69 certificated stores not only helps people find reliable outlets to buy safe farm products, but also introduces a production model for other food producers to follow.

State agencies including the agriculture ministry should set up consumption chains for safe food to serve as an example for farmers and food firms to follow.

We expect to see more green outlets where consumers can buy safe farm products everywhere. — VNS