by Xuan Hiep
HCM CITY — Experts have urged policymakers to create a dedicated website that would include information about businesses that sell unsafe food.
The call to publicly identify businesses that violate food-safety guidelines comes at a time when the number of food-poisoning cases has increased dramatically.
Dr Nguyen Khac Hung, head of the Institute of Psychology and Law Education, said such a list should be based on information from various agencies as well as quality and safety standards established for each product chain in the market.
Hung spoke at a workshop about food safety and hygiene held in HCM City last Friday.
He urged consumers to learn more about food safety through newspapers, the internet, TV and radio.
He said the media played an essential role in informing readers about food-safety issues.
Phan Xuan Thao, head of the HCM City Sub-Department of Animal Health, urged the media to not only alert the public about violations but also provide consumers with further information about prestigious companies and their high-quality products.
Thao said businesses that strictly comply with food-safety regulations should also be identified by city agencies.
He also recommended that laws on food-safety standards be amended or changed to include stiffer penalties for violators.
Phan Thi Viet Thu, head of the city's Office of Complaint Resolution for Consumers, told Viet Nam News that the law only required that ingredients or country of origin be listed on product labels.
However, it does not require companies to include warnings about possible harm that could be caused by certain ingredients to people with allergies or diseases such as diabetes.
"It is really the corporate social responsibility of businesses to protect customer rights," Thu said.
"We have received so many complaints from customers about poor-quality products, but most of the cases have not been solved satisfactorily since consumers lack detailed evidence that a particular product could cause harm," she added. "What we are trying to do is to reconcile the differences between companies and consumers."
Thu recommended that companies include all information about the products not only to gain the trust of customers but also to protect themselves.
In addition, participants also agreed that the packing and design of the products should be clearly presented with all information about the companies and their products.
"The most important thing is that we should raise the awareness of the entire community about food safety and hygiene standards," Hung said.
According to the Ministry of Health, more than 1,000 food poisoning cases occurred nationwide from 2004 to 2009, killing 298 people.
Last year, 142 food poisoning cases occurred nationwide, causing 25 deaths and leaving more than 3,560 people hospitalised.
The ministry said the number of poisoning cases involving chemical substances was increasing rapidly and had become more difficult to control.
The seminar was held to increase consumer awareness about food safety and to help producers learn more about consumer demand so they can improve the quality of their products, especially in a time of severe competition. — VNS