May 6, 2016 by the saigontimes
Vu Vinh Phu, chairman of the Hanoi Supermarkets Association, told the seminar that unsafe food has become a national crisis. It can be found at traditional wet markets, on the streets and even at popular supermarkets where customers believe they can acquire safe food.
Phu said it is hard for consumers to distinguish between safe and unsafe food, and that State management agencies must be responsible for the matter and should find ways to cope with it.
He noted that farmers could not grow safe vegetables if water and air are polluted altogether.
Le Duc Thinh, deputy head of the Department of Cooperatives and Rural Development under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the ministry has taken note of the problem.
Phu said State agencies’ inspections into unsafe food are inefficient as they have focused on sellers rather than producers.
Phu said essential foodstuffs like pork, vegetables and fruit must be checked first as it is impossible for inspectors to look into thousands of items at supermarkets.
Thinh said the ministry plans to restructure the agricultural sector in a way that increases added value and promotes sustainable development. For instance, the ministry has carried out programs in the Mekong Delta to grow paddy using less fertilizer and pesticide. This farming model would be expanded to over 90% of the total paddy farming area in the region.
In June, the ministry will review these programs after three years of implementation and propose the Government issue a decree encouraging safe cultivation.
Le Van Hung of the Association of Vietnam Organic Agriculture said the country had 21,000 hectares under organic farming in 2010 and the figure doubled to 43,000 hectares in 2014.
He said organic farming is an environmentally friendly production method as no chemical fertilizer, pesticide, antibiotic and prohibited substances are used. It is safe for the environment and consumers, so Vietnam should apply this method.
Documents released at the seminar showed that Vietnam has had many cases of mass food poisoning due to unsafe food. Residues of chemicals found in food and foodstuffs have reportedly caused at least 125,000 cancer cases a year.
The number of people killed by cancers amounts to 82,000 a year, accounting for 73.5% of the total deaths caused by diseases.
Unsafe food also hinders food exports. In 2015, the European Union refused 21 Vietnamese products and suspended imports of 17 other items to clarify quality information.
In 2014, Vietnam was unable to get licenses to export 130 products to the EU while 51 shipments were found to contain higher-than-permitted antibiotic and chemical residues, up seven-fold against 2013.