Food safety again dominates NA discussions

Even though Vietnam has a detailed legal frameworks and laws related to food safety and hygiene, the problem remains, said Le Thi Nga, deputy chairwoman of the NA Justice Committee.

"Unhygienic food is causing more illnesses, lowering economic competitiveness and badly affecting the country's image," Nga said.


Deputy Le Thi Nga speaking at a NA meeting.

Nga said that even though there were laws that protect consumer rights and health, the number of cases involving unhygienic food have kept rising. "We think that is because law enforcement is weak," she said.

An example is the use of salbutamol. Because it poses harm to people when used in animal feed, the substance is on a Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development import prohibition list, but it is allowed on an import list of the Ministry of Health as it is an important substance for asthma medicine. It is reported that in two years, nine tonnes of salbutamol were imported into Vietnam.

"Local authorities have been unable to control this substance's distribution. It's unclear how much is used for medical care and how much is used wrongly."

Even though violators face a fine of VND200m or a fine seven times higher than the goods' value, the management and enforcement is lax.

Some cases are punished in name only and it's likely that corruption has played a role in minimising the charges.

Officials are rarely punished. On contrary, they are mostly praised for "successfully fulfill their duties."

Nga expressed doubts over official answers during National Assembly sessions.

She said, "A minister said only one percent of aqua products, ten percent of vegetables and 7.6 percent of meat have exceed prohibited substances residues like antibiotics.

The deputies thought that the numbers are not accurate yet no agencies bothered to verify these numbers.

The ministers said there were lack of personnel, equipment and funds. The deputies have no way to verify the truth."

Nga asked to tighten the law enforcement and monitoring over food hygiene. She also demanded a special meeting next month to assess the situation and find solutions.

She went on to say that the government must review the list of banned substances and standards on chemical residues.

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