Almost 550 people have fallen sick in a large food poisoning outbreak in Vietnam.

People were taken ill after eating at a bakery in Long Khánh, a city in Đồng Nai Province.

In the past week, 547 people were sickened, according to the Dong Nai Department of Health.

466 cases have been discharged from hospitals and continue to be monitored at home, while 81 patients are being treated in hospital.

Operations at the Cô Băng bakery were temporarily suspended while authorities investigated the incident. Officials said more than 1,000 banh mi sandwiches were sold to consumers, with some later developing symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting. These sandwiches usually come on a baguette with pate, pork, and vegetables.

Salmonella suspicion

An inspection by authorities found the bakery did not have a business license or an eligible food safety certificate. Four employees did not have a certificate of food safety training or a health certificate.

A meeting with local food producers and traders earlier this week revealed that only around 20 percent of 132 bakery outlets in Long Khánh have business licenses. In 2023, a training session was organized for food businesses in the area. The owner of Co Bang bakery attended but was not given a certificate on food safety.

Hospitals conducted test results on 29 patient samples, and the Ho Chi Minh City Institute of Public Health recorded 16 positives for two Salmonella and E. coli strains, and nine samples were positive for E. coli.

Results from food samples taken at the implicated bakery by the Ho Chi Minh City Institute of Public Health recorded Salmonella positives in four of eight samples.

Officials said these findings mean it can be concluded that Salmonella caused the food poisoning.

Wider picture

Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang asked the Ministry of Health to promote information and advice on the risk of food poisoning and how to prevent it, especially in tourist areas, school cafeterias, and street food sites.

In 2023, Vietnam recorded 125 epidemics that infected more than 2,100 people and caused 28 deaths, which is an increase on 2022 figures.

In March 2024, the Ministry of Health’s Vietnam Food Administration and the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety announced the official operation of a food safety management system in Vietnam.

The announcement was the outcome of a project between the two governments approved by the Vietnamese Prime Minister in 2020.

Most food production and processing facilities in Vietnam are small-scale and follow seasonal production. Among the country’s 500,000 food processing establishments, 85 percent are small- and medium-sized and family-run with limited equipment and facilities.

The system has five components: an online food safety reporting system, a public web portal with general food safety information, a professional portal for officials, and a system monitoring laboratory information.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)