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Ensuring food safety proves difficult for City officials

Update: October, 01/2014 - 08:50
Vice Chairwoman of HCM City People's Committee Nguyen Thi Hong and city officials inspect a vegetable stand at the Hoc Mon agriculture market. The city's Food Safety and Hygiene Division estimated that 80 per cent of the city's food supply was brought in from outside, making it difficult to confirm the origin of particular foods. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Vu

HCM CITY (VNS) — Most people in HCM City were worried about food safety, Doan Thi Thanh Xuan, chairwoman of the Ex-Youth Volunteers Association, told a workshop on food safety and hygiene in the city yesterday.

District and commune authorities should take the initiative for measures to ensure food safety, she said, adding that they should not wait for instructions.

Le Thai Hoa, head of the city Food Safety and Hygiene Division, said his and other relevant agencies monitor food brought from other provinces and cities and sold in wholesale markets and other places.

Safe food chains where the quality of essential items was controlled from the farm to the sales point have been set up, he said.

Yet unsafe foods continue to be sold around the city, he admitted, adding that since 80 per cent of all food is brought in from other provinces and cities, the number is too large for fool-proof control.

He also blamed the mushrooming of illegal markets for the difficulty in ensuring food safety and hygiene.

Other violations like adding excessive food additives and using those not allowed by the Ministry of Health are also rampant in the city.

The risk of food poisoning from street foods was high, Hoa said, pointing out that there were more than 16,443 street food stalls in the city but communes and wards did not have officials exclusively to monitor food safety and hygiene.

This year city authorities checked 12,050 food stalls and found 57 per cent of them violating safety and hygiene regulations, slapping fines of VND31.6 million (US$1,504), according to a report by the city Steering Board on Food Safety. Forty of them were also shut down.

Food manufacturers, especially small ones, did not realise they were responsible for their consumers' health, Hoa said.

But many poor people could not afford to buy foods with clear origins, he said.

He said that his division planned to step up inspection and oversight of food and propagate information about food safety.

More officials would be recruited at ward and district levels to oversee food safety, he said. — VNS

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