HCMC strictly punishing food safety violations

SGGP Newspaper has conducted an interview with Director Pham Khanh Phong Lan of the newly established HCMC Department of Food Safety on raising the public awareness about this matter.

Director Pham Khanh Phong Lan of the newly established HCMC Department of Food Safety is checking pork sold at Binh Dien Wholesale Market

Firstly, Director Pham Khanh Phong Lan informed the current tasks of her department, especially when Tet Holiday is approaching. Right at the end of 2023, 11 task forces were formed to regularly inspect raw material warehouses for processed food to serve the community at Tet.

From the beginning of this year, these teams concentrate more on checking merchandise distribution. On January 26, the Food Safety Department is going to visit Binh Tay Market and other wholesale produce markets in the city for food safety regulation observance.

All districts and Thu Duc City also sent their own task forces for this purpose. Besides, the People’s Committees of all districts and Thu Duc City are asked to actively develop their detailed plan for food safety maintenance and food poisoning prevention. They must organize propaganda activities to increase the awareness of the public, especially food manufacturers and traders, about safety and poisoning prevention during Tet Holiday.

The product supply for Tet demands is diverse and sufficient, while markets and supermarkets open until the last day of the lunar year and then reopen soon, so there is no need to stock too much at home before Tet. Consumers should always check information on the label carefully before purchasing goods.

Director Pham Khanh Phong Lan

Director Lan further explained the focus of the inspections on food quality, expiration date, product standards, product label content, material origin, food additives, food processing conditions, and product advertising content.

Any detected law breaking cases are strictly handled. When needed, the Food Safety Department can suspend the operation, revoke the food safety or business permit certificates of violating companies. It can even transfer serious cases to investigation units for legal prosecution. All law offenses are publicly announced on the mass media to warn both producers and the community.

Answering the question on the current status of food safety in HCMC, Director Lan shared that thanks to drastic measures of her department lately, the number of food poisoning cases has seen a significant drop whereas safe food chains have risen. Despite a growth in the quantity of samples to monitor risks, law breaking cases have decreased, showing an improvement in food safety in the city.

However, the risk coming from fresh food transported from neighboring provinces and the use of industrial chemicals instead of qualified food additives to save cost is still rather high. More importantly, whether food safety can be successfully maintained or not depends largely on public awareness. Their lack of understanding about the dangers of using unsafe food and their temporary satisfaction with the food having no clear origin owing to cheap price both lead to the existence of harmful food.

The Director finally mentioned her department’s plan in the upcoming time to ensure food safety for city dwellers. It is going to organize more unexpected inspections to food processing units and stores according to reports of the public and the press.

There will also be theme-based inspection rounds (e.g. food additive use, functional food). More cooperation with relevant units for food traceability and food safety control in distribution systems will be done.

Director Nguyen Thanh Phong of the Vietnam Food Administration (VFA) proposed strict punishments to any law violations on food safety, along with public announcements on the mass media about these cases. The awareness of the community about this matter should be raised so that they can timely report law breaking activities to the authorities. Manufacturers and traders should equip themselves with sufficient knowledge on this matter to obey the law.

Doctor Do Thi Ngoc Diep – Vice Chairwoman of the Vietnam Nutrition Association – commented that in the past years, the trend of buying wrapped gift baskets at Tet has been quite popular. Taking advantage of this chance, many sellers have purposedly put low-quality or expired items with unclear origin but with attractive packaging inside the basket. These might harm the health of users. Several boxes of sweets, tea, sugar-coated fruits have no information about their manufacturer or expiration date.

The risk is higher when these gift baskets are bought online. Therefore, she advised that wise consumers should only choose prestigious stores to buy merchandise, and carefully select each item for wrapped gift baskets.

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