Food Safety Inspections Stepped Up15 January 2013
VIET NAM - Inspections of food safety were stepped up across the board last year, with violations detected at 21 per cent of the 563,000 establishments checked, an online conference between the Government and local leaders heard.
According to Viet Nam News, Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, who also represents the inter-sectoral central steering committee on food safety, said the close co-ordination of various ministries and sectors had helped tackle high-profile cases concerning smuggled chickens, forbidden substances used in pork, fish and dry noodles, as well as imported apples.
The inspection teams issued strict punishments to offending traders, instructing them to destroy unhygienic food or fix wrongly-labelled products.
More than 1,300 establishments had their documents transferred to relevant agencies for review.
The number of food poisoning cases at collective kitchens was lowered last year, both in terms of infected cases and death toll.
The overall figure fell by 20.7 per cent, infected cases by 12.7 per cent and hospitalised cases by 22.3 per cent, compared to 2011. No deaths were reported.
But the number of people poisoned by home-brewed wine with higher than permitted levels of alcohol rose 18.8 per cent, according to the health ministry.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat said the most pressing issue now was tainted food, particularly pork, vegetables and aqua-culture products.
He also noted that little progress had been reported on the quality of safe vegetables.
The country has over 22,000ha of certified safe vegetables, but the figure remained small compared to the total 100,000ha of vegetables grown nationwide.
Mr Phat said it is worrying to see low levels of responsibility among growers and traders.
The ministry's inspections also found that only 10.3 per cent of checked livestock and poultry slaughter houses met safety standards.
Up to 45 per cent of them had serious violations, most of which were located in the northern region.
"The figures indicated many localities had not taken the Government's directive on slaughter seriously," Mr Phat said.
Punishment of violations remains lax at local levels, he added. The agriculture minister also noted the country had a limited number of food safety inspectors, which remained at just 300, compared to roughly 5,000 in Bangkok alone and 12,000 in Japan.
Speaking at the conference, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan said food safety work gained six major outcomes last year, including the promulgation of legal documents, the establishment of steering boards on food safety at Central and local levels and increased public education.
He particularly praised recent efforts to tackle chickens smuggling. Nhan, however, urged for tightened controls on imported food via both regular and irregular channels.
The model of safe markets should be set up across the country this year and more information should spread on the safe use of wine.
The country will soon carry out a month-long blitz on food safety for Tet (lunar new year), with a focus on safe food production chains and labelling safe products, firstly meat and vegetables.
Eight inspection teams for food safety have been set up in 24 provinces and cities, working from today until 15 February.