Vietnam’s Administration for Food Safety and Hygiene Department, part of the Ministry of Health, recently announced that 2,000 inspection teams nationwide detected 13,000 food hygiene violations in 47,000 businesses inspected during the Tet holiday.
Tet, or the Vietnamese New Year, is celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year. It takes place from the first to the third day of the first month of the Lunar calendar, and is an occasion for family reunions and other gatherings.
According to Viet Nam News, 2,353 businesses were fined for a total of VND 1 billion (US $55,000), and food products from 489 businesses were destroyed.
The supply of locally grown vegetables often becomes scarce after the Tet holiday, and Nguyen Cong Khan, head of the Ministry of Health, stated that the Vietnamese government is prepared to inspect imported food products to ensure their quality.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health continues to inspect food products, focusing its inspections on foods in transit. In an interview with the Viet Nam News, Khan said, “Most of the notable cases, which are related to the transportation of huge amounts of past-sell-by-date food products including animal fat, have been discovered on the way to consumers rather than being sold at markets, which has proved the efficiency of this inspection method to some extent.”
Khan also commented that the government is cracking down on businesses that violate food safety standards and that food safety inspections will increase at festivals.
Increased inspections and enforcement are intended in part to prevent an outbreak of bird flu. Animal inspection and quarantine posts have been set up to prevent such an outbreak from occurring.
Other programs are designed to restructure and improve the management of food safety and hygiene at markets. “Once this step is successfully implemented, another program, which is to identify the point of origin of commodities sold at the markets, will be run,” Khan said.
In January, the Vietnam National Assembly Standing Committee rejected Minister of Health Nguyen Quoc Trieu’s proposal to set up a National Committee for Food Safety. The proposed committee would have been made up of officials from related ministries within the Vietnamese government.
Trieu argued that the committee would help ensure the safety of food produced by Vietnam’s 9.4 million farm households as well as food sold at small markets and along Vietnam’s borders, where food is imported daily.
In rejecting the proposed committee, the Standing Committee agreed to draft a bill on food safety, which will be finalized for approval in the Vietnam National Assembly session in May. The bill will give joint responsibility for controlling food hygiene and safety to the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Each ministry’s role in protecting food hygiene will be outlined in the bill.