HÀ NỘI The names of four companies that used a banned chemical compound that would only normally be used in soap and detergent to produce fish sauce were revealed on Monday.
Sodium carbonate, sometimes referred to as washing soda, is not allowed to be used in food production.
The companies named were Điều Hương MTV Ltd in An Giang, Hòa Hiệp Food Processing Ltd and Tấn Phát Food Ltd in Vĩnh Long, and Liên Thành Fishery Product Processing JSC in HCM City.
Nguyễn Văn Tiến, chief inspector of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the four companies also failed to use nets to protect their products from being attacked by insects and animals.
The tests conducted by the National Food Safety Testing Institute showed the fish sauce samples did not comply with national health standards.
The agency started inspecting the companies in the middle of last year, but the findings were only released this month.
After the violations were discovered more than half a year ago, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development forwarded the case to the Ministry of Public Security.
The companies were fined VNĐ782 million (US$34,000) and ordered to return all imported washing soda, and take the fish sauce off the shelves to use as animal feed instead.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development planned to step up inspections on the processing of fish sauce and soy sauce nationwide, said Tiến.
After the violations were announced, Nguyễn Thị Kim Hồng, director of Liên Thành Ltd, claimed her business had not broken safety standards related to the use of additives.
She claimed her company was fined VNĐ6 million ($260) for not covering waste water treatment areas.
“We will work with inspectors from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to clarify the information to avoid confusion,” she said.
Pure sodium carbonate is permitted in food processing as an anti-freeze agent and acidity regulator, but the level must be under the safe level standardised by the ministry.
It can also be used as a bonding agent in industry and has large applications in manufacturing glass, paper, pottery and dyed products, Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper reported.
Inhalation of a large amount of the chemical can lead to throat, mouth and stomach burns, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Direct eye contact can cause permanent corneal injuries. VNS