Food-safety measures fail to stop poisoning

Update: August, 11/2012 - 09:20

HCM CITY — Authorities are failing to control the quality and safety of food served by street vendors or kitchens that cook for industrial zone workers in HCM City.

Ministry of Health statistics show that 726 people were hospitalised for food poisoning in the first six months of the year, including four fatalities. In HCM City alone, 400 workers have been hospitalised with food poisoning just since early July.

Nguyen Thi Huynh Mai, deputy head of the city's Department of Food Safety and Hygiene, said that it was hard to control the origin and quality of food used by street vendors and industrial zone kitchens.

While the city's Department of Animal Health quarantines about 80 per cent of pork and poultry meat entering the city from nearby provinces, unquarantined meat might still be distributed to street vendors or unregulated kitchens, said department head Phan Xuan Thao.

The costs of food have skyrocketed while employers have been paying only VND12,000 (US$0.50) per meal set, said the owner of one kitchen who aked not to be named. His kitchen provides 200 meal sets for a company in Linh Trung Processing Zone, and the money is only enough for the kitchen to buy low-priced or even substandard food.

"Substandard food from these kitchens is believed to be the main cause of food poisoning cases," confirmed Mai from the Departent of Food Safety and Hygiene.

According to the department, 24 of 71 kitchens inspected violated food safety and hygiene standards. Violations included food without clear origin, substandard facilities and kitchen staff without knowledge of food safety and hygiene practices. Some kitchens with a capacity to prepare 300 meal sets daily were alos providing up to 600, Mai said.

The department planned to tighten inspections on food safety and hygiene in the near future and was co-operating with relevant agencies on a project to ensure food safety and hygiene during 2012-15. — VNS