Tainted food scare sparks response

Published: 29/06/2011 05:00

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Viet Nam Food Administration (VFA) director Nguyen Cong Khan spoke to the newspaper Nong thon Ngay nay (Countryside Today) about public concern over food safety.

Now that companies have recalled products that reportedly contain cancer-causing di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), what is the next step?

Although not directly responsible for dealing with recalled products, the VFA will work with the ministries of health, natural resources and environment and the enterprises themselves to find ways of destroying DEHP-tainted products. The department will continue calling for actions and regulations until the enterprises carry out proper solutions.

It seems that Viet Nam tends to react passively after learning about unsafe products. Why do you think the country is not more active in its response?

More and more, Viet Nam is attempting to integrate itself into the regional and international arenas. Trade, including imported food, is an indispensable part of that effort and has been since the country gained WTO membership. However, it’s hard to avoid accepting substandard or even poisonous imports, because we still lack the tools that help identify unsafe products.

So as of now we are forced to simply follow the warnings issued by other countries. The department is designing a new and more effective system, but we estimate it will take at least 10 years to complete.

Do you think we need to be doing more to warn people about the risks of DEHP-tainted products, as well as other unhygienic and unsafe foods?

DEHP-related illnesses are just one of thousands of potential problems arising from unsafe food and drink. The department is struggling to inspect foodstuffs and deliver warnings, but the task will be much tougher if people maintain their habits of consuming unhygienic food and producing substandard products. I don’t mean to pass the buck to others by saying this, but I do want to call on people to join in the raising of awareness and ensure safety for themselves and their communities.

How should people react to information about unsafe food?

People need to listen to warnings from reliable authorities and be able to identify potentially unsafe products. And of course, producers need to stop cheating customers with false information and using spoiled poisonous ingredients.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

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