|PM Nguyễn Xuân Phúc (second from right) inspects a seafood booth at a supermarket in HCM City’s District 11. The PM has approved the establishment of a food-safety management board which will have oversight over food hygiene in the city. VNS Photo|
HCM CITY — Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has approved the establishment of a food-safety management board to monitor food quality and safety in HCM City.
According to the Government Office, the PM approved the pilot project to set up a food-safety management board over the next three years.
The Department of Internal Affairs under the HCM City People’s Committee had previously proposed to the Government to establish a food-safety management board in the southern region.
Lê Văn Lâm, deputy director of the Department of Internal Affairs, said the board aimed to punish violators of regulations on food safety and prevent future offences.
The city has had a system to implement food safety, including relevant agencies under the Department of Health, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Department of Industry and Trade.
Lâm said, however, that due to a lack of coordination and overlapping functions, it is important to establish a board to exclusively carry out the mission of food hygiene and safety.
Current punishment for violations of food safety rules was not strict enough, he said. Regular supervision had not been effectively conducted, and emerging problems were not promptly resolved, he added.
"A separate agency with sufficient authority is needed to deal with the existing limitations in ensuring food safety across the city," Lâm said.
Nguyễn Thị Huỳnh Mai, deputy head of the Food Safety Agency, said food poisoning had become a critical issue in recent years.
Last year, there were 171 cases of food poisoning, killing 23 and sending some 5,000 people to hospital.
HCM City, which has a population of 10 million, consumes 287,000 tonnes of meat, 1 billion eggs, one million tonnes of vegetables and 170,000 tonnes of seafood a year, according to official statistics.
Food safety remains a major concern since the majority of farmers and traders still lack sufficient knowledge of the issue, while others have deliberately engaged in unsafe practices to achieve higher profits.
HCM City supplies around 20 per cent of its own demand for food and buys the rest from other localities and abroad, according to the food-safety agency. — VNS