Inspectors check food in a supermarket in Hà Nội. Photo thanhtra.vn
HÀ NỘI – Management and unscheduled inspections of food safety and hygiene should be enhanced with stricter measures as the COVID-19 pandemic had not yet been extinguished, said the National Steering committee on Food Safety and Hygiene.
The committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam held a meeting on Friday to review food safety and hygiene control in the first half of this year.
According to the committee’s report, food safety control received attention, direction and participation of the whole political system.
Law observation of producers, traders, management agencies and people had dramatically improved which helped form a civilised lifestyle in producing, trading and consuming safe food.
During the first six months this year, inspections on food production and trading facilities had been affected by the Government’s social distancing restrictions for COVID-19 prevention.
However, according to reports from the 63 cities and provinces nationwide, the handling of violations was more drastic than in the same period last year as 38,100 establishments violating regulations on food safety and hygiene were discovered.
So far, 6,800 facilities have been fined a total amount of VNĐ15.8 billion (US$680,000).
Along with fines, many localities also applied additional sanctions such as suspension of business operation and product circulation, and product destruction.
More than 91,500 food samples were tested and 6,422 did not meet the food safety standards, accounting for 7 per cent.
The timely discovery of violations contributed to preventing unsafe food from circulating in the market and gave early warnings to producers, traders and consumers about food safety.
Apart from regular inspections, ministries and management authorities conducted several unscheduled checks and found many cases of violations.
The Ministry of Health fined 21 establishments a total of VNĐ1.5 billion (US$65,000) while the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development inspected nearly 65,000 facilities, 547 of which were fined a total of VNĐ5.2 billion (US$224,000).
Market management forces and environment police also uncovered more than 5,800 cases of violations and levied fines of nearly VNĐ23.7 billion (US$1 million).
The violations of regulations were made public to help people choose safe products.
In recent months, the Ministry of Health has co-ordinated with ministries and agencies to review and make lists of untruthful advertisements on food supplements and medicines with unknown origins.
Stricter sanctions are needed
Speaking at the meeting, Deputy Minister of Public Security Nguyễn Duy Ngọc said authorised agencies should regularly update lists of banned substances used in food production and process and adjust regulations on food safety violations to keep them relevant.
“Since early this year, the ministry has handled about 3,000 cases of food safety and hygiene violations but launched legal proceedings in only three cases because there was a lack of regulations,” said Duy.
Accessing the performances of communes after a year of implementing food safety control, the steering committee agreed the operation of specialised inspection forces was needed to continue the task.
“Inspection once a year does not match the reality of the food safety management field. Irregular inspections should be done based on reports of authorised offices and information from people and other sources,” said the committee.
Along with inspections, stricter sanctions such as business operation suspension should be given to violating entities and individuals.
Regarding experts’ opinions that many types of packed and processed food products contain many preservatives or are produced in unhygienic production chains, the committee requested more inspections of domestic and imported products.
Additionally, ministries, sectors and localities should continue to improve the information and reporting system as well as set up a database on food safety and complete a process of food safety and hygiene management according to levels of risk like advanced models in developed countries and provisions of Law on Food Safety, the committee said.
People were encouraged to consume healthy products and fight food safety violations, said the committee. – VNS