Food safety a focus ahead of Lunar New Year

Update: December, 27/2017 - 09:00
Nguyễn Như Tiệp
Viet Nam News

Nguyễn Như Tiệp, director of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Quality Management Department, speaks to the newspaper Nông thôn Ngày nay (Countryside Today) on measures to ensure food safety over the Lunar New Year festival

Was a food safety report released by the Pasteur Institute a warning on the increase in unsafe food as Lunar New Year approaches?

Hồ Chí Minh City Pasteur Institute recently released a report saying that the number of unsafe food cases detected in 2017 was higher than in previous years. However, the number of inspections carried out was higher than in 2016, but they all show that food safety had improved considerably.

Regarding the issue of food safety, in 2017 the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development focused on four areas; namely:

To complete the legal framework on food safety inspection and control;

To step up inspection and supervision visits;

To conduct supervision visits to get information to compile communications materials on food safety;

And finally to develop food safety chains.

One of our focuses during visits is to detect the use of prohibited chemical agents, including antibiotic drugs in livestock raising or in aqua culture and others.

Why do you say the issue of food safety in 2017 is better than in previous years?

Through visits to production units of agriculture, forestry and aqua products, we found out that up to 97.33 per cent had complied with the law on food safety. Meanwhile during our visits to business enterprises engaged in agricultural materials, we found out that up to 93.16 per cent of them had been in compliance with the law on food safety.

Worthy of note is that the Salbutamol agent – a prohibited agent in livestock breeding - was not found in the sampling of 8,090 urine specimens taken in slaughterhouses or in 1,052 meat samples taken in the same places.

If in 2016, the percentage of meat samples containing anti-biotics was  1.76 per cent. In 2017, it dropped to 0.89 percent.

In addition, in 2017 the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) conducted both regular and irregular inspections to  2,506 establishments and found 373 violated the law on food safety. Of these, 107 were fined.

All in all, through inspection visits conducted by the MARD and local authorities in 2017, the sum of money collected from violations of food safety nation-wide was almost VNĐ80 billion ($3.5 million).

Does MARD have any plan on food safety for Lunar New Year?

We’ll do our best to make sure that only safe food will be sold in the market. We vow to give due penalties to enterprises that violate the Law on Food Safety.

In addition, we’ll also launch a communication campaign calling on all food producers/establishments to uphold the law while providing consumers’ knowledge on how to recognise safe food.

I’m confident that we will have plenty of safe food to choose from.

Does MARD have any specific plan to ensure that there is no place for unsafe food in the market in 2018?

We’ll continue to implement the four missions laid down in 2017 regarding food safety.

However, for 2018 we’ll pull efforts on the two main tasks, i.e to eliminate the injection of chemicals into shrimps and the selling of low quality fertiliser to farmers. Food safety will remain one of our key tasks.

To achieve this, we’ll try to complete our legal frame work on food safety while launching a communication campaign to raise people’s awareness.

As from January 1, 2018 the Criminal Code will come into force, and one of its articles deals with using prohibited chemical agent in food.

We have worked out a plan to tighten our co-operation with the Ministry of Public Security in our investigation in food safety violation cases.­ — VNS