BINH DUONG — Health authorities and nutrition experts are calling for factories in industrial zones and export processing zones to improve the quality of workers' meals as the number of collective food poisoning cases continues to rise.
|Workers select food at the Mong Duong Coal Joint Stock Company's canteen in Quang Ninh Province.The company provides nutritious meals, but millions of other factory workers often eat unhygienic and poorly prepared food. — VNA/VNS Photo Ngoc Ha
Participants at the conference, organised yesterday by the Health Ministry's Viet Nam Food Administration, agreed that millions of workers across the country had been suffering from unhygienic meals, which did not provide them with enough nutrition to handle long working hours and affected the general quality of the labour force.
According to Tran Quang Trung, head of the National Food Administration, there were 927 food poisoning cases between 2007-11 nationwide, affecting roughly 30,700 people, including 229 deaths.
Between 2007-11, 72 collective food poisoning cases at public canteens in industrial and processing zones were reported nationwide, affecting 7,000 workers and hospitalising about 6,600.
Most of the cases at factories resulted from low quality ingredients and unhygienic processing and storage procedures that did not meet safety standards.
According to Nguyen Hung Long, deputy head of the National Food Administration, workers' meals were often extremely cheap.
Long said the administration had worked with the National Nutrition Institute to survey workers' meals and found that most did not provide sufficient nutrition.
Nguyen Van Dat, head of the food administration in southern Binh Duong Province, said the agency surveyed 50 businesses in the province from 2010-11, and found on average that only VND15,000 (US$0.75) was spent on each meal.
"We know that some businesses offer meals at VND7,000 ($0.35) but we don't know what they can eat for that small amount," he said.
According to Le Bach Mai, deputy head of the National Nutrition Agency, workers' meals in industrial and processing zones generally only provided 90 per cent of the energy needed for female workers and 77 per cent for male workers.
In addition, most of the calories supplied came from starchy food, mostly rice and potatoes.
If this continued, the problem would especially affect pregnant female workers, she said.
Health authorities said at the conference that they were working with industrial and processing zones and other relevant agencies, particularly the Labour Federation and the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, to set regulations related to standards for workers' meals. — VNS