State bites into food safety fears

17:59 | 13/11/2007
Health officials have asked for special attention to food safety and sanitation as the number of food poisoning and acute diarrhoea cases rise.

The nation has been doubled over with food poisoning cases
The Ministry of Health (MoH) announced last week there had been approximately 1,000 cases of acute diarrhoea reported in hospitals nationwide.
A survey conducted by the Central Sanitation and Epidemic Institute showed that 66 per cent of hospital patients were ill as a result of eating shrimp paste, with 62 per cent and 56 per cent having had eaten dog and pig meat recently.
Minister of Health Nguyen Quoc Trieu said that the diarrhoea-causing virus had been found in both raw and cooked food, and that effective measures aimed at preventing further spread should be taken.
Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Health announced last week that food markets in 24 districts would undergo inspections to prevent possible outbreaks of acute diarrhoea.
Department head Nguyen Van Chau said an interdisciplinary inspection team would visit restaurants specialising in dog meat and crab chowder, where shrimp paste is often used.
Le Doan Dien, vice president of the Vietnam Association for Food Science and Technology (VAFoST), said the lack of food safety was endangering local producers’ image.
World Health Organisation figures revealed there are approximately three million cases of food poisoning annually in Vietnam, causing VND3 trillion (roughly $190 million) in damages.
Several scandals, including the discovery of a soybean sauce with a high ratio of 3-MPCD toxins and bacteria-infected vegetables, have sounded alarm bells for consumers.
Tran Dang, head of the MoH’s Food Sanitation and Safety Department, said that restaurants and food stores should be forced to satisfy a number of conditions related to food safety before being granted a permit for operation.
“To date in Hanoi there have been just 300 permits granted to food businesses that satisfy safety conditions, but in reality the number of businesses selling food is close to 17,000,” he said.
He added that restaurants and food stores nation-wide had been flouting regulations unpunished.
A recent MoH food safety and sanitation survey revealed that in Ho Chi Minh City, a number of food additives were used without the origin of import publicly displayed. Dang said the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Market Control Agency should do more to enforce regulations.
Do Gia Phan, general secretary of the Vietnam Standards and Consumers Protection Association, agreed that the food industry was being damaged by the slack enforcement of regulations.

By Vu Long

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