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Association fined for misleading information on fish sauce

Update: May, 26/2017 - 17:00
Organic arsenic which is present naturally in traditional fish sauce is safe for human consumption, according to the Ministry of Health. 1 VNA/VNS Photo
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT)’s authorised agencies have decided to penalise the Việt Nam Standard and Consumers Association (VINASTAS) for misleading reports on the toxicity in fish sauce.

The association has been slapped with a fine of VNĐ15 million (US$666).

The penalty will be applied following the Law on Food Safety for violations in “publication of misleading information on food safety which caused public anxiety and damage to producers and businesses.” (Term 12, Article 5).

On October 18 last year, the association published on its website a story titled “Nearly 85 per cent of fish sauce samples of 88 enterprises fail to meet standards.” The story contained misleading information, according to which 95.65 per cent of traditional fish sauce samples failed to meet standards pertaining to arsenic level.

The survey defined organic arsenic under Việt Nam’s standard 8-2:2011/BYT as similar to inorganic arsenic, which is considered to be highly toxic.

After carrying out an investigation into the incident, the MoIT concluded that the survey by the association, which released misleading test results of fish sauce that subsequently led to public alarm, was not independent, reliable or transparent.The ministry said the survey was incorrect and without scientific and legal basis, causing confusion and fear among consumers.

The ministry said although the survey was conducted on behalf of Vinastas, it was not clearly planned, and conducted mainly by the association’s president and individuals. Many steps of the process were not approved or monitored by the association.

The information was misleading since the survey made no distinction between organic and inorganic arsenic content in fish sauce. Inorganic arsenic is highly toxic while organic arsenic, which is present naturally in traditional fish sauce, is safe for human consumption, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Health stated.

The inaccurate information about the quality of fish sauce meant VINASTAS violated the Food Safety Law, according to the MoIT.

On behalf of the survey team, VINASTAS in a statement apologised for the consequences of its false reports, which adversely affected consumers and many traditional fish sauce makers and distributors. It also pledged to hold offending individuals accountable and review its professional code of conduct to avoid such mistakes in the future.

Following the incident, 50 newspapers and media outlets were slapped with a total fine of VNĐ1 billion ($44,400) for running the results of the survey and ordered to publish corrections.

On October 22 last year, the health ministry announced that all 247 fish sauce samples, randomly collected from markets and supermarkets in five provinces and cities - Hà Nội, HCM City, Khánh Hòa, Ninh Thuận and Bình Thuận - were tested and no inorganic arsenic was detected. — VNS

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