|Pickled onion and pickled small leeks – a popular traditional disk in Tết parties are sold at Bình Tây Market in HCM City. Photo tienphong.vn|
HCM CITY - As the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday approaches, food to celebrate the big occasion is in high demand, with homemade food most popular as it reminds people of their family's cooking.
However, some homemade food on sale at this time of year has failed to meet food safety requirements, posing risks to consumers’ health.
At Bình Tây Market in HCM City’s District 6 last Sunday, a Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper reporter who introduced herself as an online food seller was offered pickled onion and pickled small leeks – a popular traditional dish for Tết parties.
The seller at the market said she sold the food to online sellers who would then claim it was made at home by themselves or their relatives.
Dried fruits – another popular Tết snack – are also displayed in markets across the country. The dried fruits look very eye-catching, smell good and taste good too but are rarely labelled properly.
With little information about the products’ origin, consumers are forced to trust the sellers and their advertisements.
Nguyễn Thị Hương, a bank worker in HCM City’s District 3, said she usually ordered food online and had it delivered to her office.
“I usually buy food from those I know or those my colleagues introduce. However, in some cases, I was delivered spoiled food and the sellers insisted that was because I stored it incorrectly,” she said.
“It’s risky to buy such homemade food,” she said, adding that once she was not satisfied with the food, she would not buy from the supplier again.
Doctor Dương Thị Kim Loan, head of the Clinic Nutrition Department under HCM City-based Thống Nhất Hospital, said consumers should be more cautious with food which is not labelled or is labelled without proper information like the producer, production date and expiration date.
Loan said that many people tended to overuse colour additives, preservatives or flavours to make their food eye-catching.
“Some people even use chemicals to protect food from insects, which could harm or poison consumers,” Loan added.
Head of HCM City’s Food Safety Management Board Phạm Khánh Phong Lan told Tiền Phong that once homemade food was sold to people, producers must meet food safety requirements, detail the ingredients, use no banned substances and label their products with information like production and expiration dates.
To sell homemade food, people must fulfil their obligations to State and public, for example, licences granted by authorities, Lan said.
When consumers had problems with homemade food, they rarely sent their complaints to authorities because of insufficient information, Lan said.
Most of the homemade food producers supply food seasonally to order and didn't bother to get business licences, which made authorities struggle to trace them and examine the quality of their food, Lan said.
“Authorities will inspect and punish food producers who reportedly violate food safety regulations. However, consumers should know how to protect themselves first,” she said, calling on consumers to pay attention to food origins and possible harms to their health when they consume food with unclear origins. VNS