HA NOI — Inspections would be stepped up with strict penalties for those found violating food hygiene and safety regulations in a bid to ensure people enjoy a healthy Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday, said Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan.
The deputy PM was speaking at a meeting yesterday to launch an action month on food safety that starts next Tuesday in Ha Noi.
The month coincides with Tet when food safety is of particular concern to individuals and agencies.
Throughout the month, the Ministry of Health hoped to cut cases of food poisoning by 10 per cent compared with the same period last year, said Nhan.
"The media should educate consumers, producers and traders in a bid to increase awareness of food hygiene and change traditional bad habits," he added.
He also said that the ministry should collaborate with other relevant ministries and sectors to increase inspections, deal with violations, and most importantly, make everyone aware of new food safety laws.
At the event, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said that the sector still faced difficulties controlling food imported through the country's border gates, chemical levels, processing procedures and unqualified food in markets.
"Food poisoning, especially cases in industrial zones, schools, tourist attractions and festivals, has caused huge economic losses and damaged the reputation of Vietnamese food and the country's image," added Tien.
Health ministry statistics said that the number of cases of food poisoning had fallen remarkably in 2011, with a decline of 22 per cent compared with 2010.
A similar event to lauch the month of action for food safety and hygiene was also held yesterday in HCM City.
Over the past years, the city has implemented measures to reduce food poisoning and transmission of diseases through food by setting up many safe models of livestock breeding and aquaculture and promoting safe cultivation practices, the municipal People's Committee Vice Chairman Hua Ngoc Thuan said.
In 2011, the number of food poisoning cases reduced by more than 38 per cent compared to 2010.
Pham Viet Thanh, head of the Health Department, said its inspectors had checked 32,585 food production facilities and found 1,463 violations last year, imposing fines of nearly VND5 billion (US$238,095).
The Government also recently ratified a National Food Safety Strategy for the period 2011-20 with a vision to 2030.
It aims to have 70 per cent of food manufacturers following food safety regulations by 2015.
By 2015, all central cities and provinces should have completed their food safety management plans, the strategy said.
The strategy also targeted that by 2015, 70 per cent of consumers and 80 per cent of food managers, including leaders of related ministries and sectors, chairmen of people's committees at different levels and managers of food processing and trading enterprises, would have a good knowledge of food safety.
Another target set out in the strategy was that by 2015, all industrial food processing enterprises, 80 per cent of collective dining-rooms and 40 per cent of restaurants would be issued with food safety certificates.
Food safety standards in half of the country's markets would also be regularly monitored and inspected.
By 2030, it targets that 100 per cent of food manufacturers, managers and consumers would have a thorough knowledge of food safety, and 100 per cent of food processing enterprises and restaurants would meet food safety standards. — VNS