Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has instructed HCM City authorities to tighten management of food products at wholesale markets and supermarkets to ensure food safety and hygiene.
Food-testing points were set up at the three biggest wholesale markets in the city to make sure food products meet hygiene standards before entering the market, he said yesterday at a working session with municipal authorities.
The city should also build a roadmap to protect consumers, and assure that food products from other localities meet hygiene standards before being transported into the city, he said.
These regulations would not cause difficulties for farmers, they would help them become familiar with new production standards that would improve their products' values, Dam said. He also pointed to the need for relevant ministries and agencies to build a more effective information dissemination plan to raise farmers' and businesses' awareness about food hygiene and safety.
"If we didn't put in place strict measures now to ensure food safety and hygiene, it would cost more later to provide health check-ups and treatment for people who got sick from dangerous food products," he said.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat said city authorities should increase inspections all year round, not just during Tet when people's demand for food products increased.
Le Thanh Liem, the vice chairman of the HCM City People's Committee, said the city had more than 20,000 street food establishments. In 2014, a city inspection found food safety violations at nearly 2,700 of them. Inspectors took more than 27,000 samples for testing and found that about 24,000 of them met hygiene standards.
City authorities organised free training courses on food safety and hygiene for more than 10,400 members of the food industry. Also, the city signed agreements with 22 localities on providing local consumers safe, hygienic food products, he said.
Several vegetables on display at two BigC and Metro supermarkets in Ha Noi were found to have unclear origins, a recent surprise inspection revealed.
A food safety and hygiene inspection team consisting of officials from the city Department of Industrial and Trade and the Department of Health (DoH) reported that the vegetable labels at BigC supermarket on Tran Duy Hung Street failed to specify the products' origins.
Some pumpkins were even found to have expiration dates in 2014, which were then removed from the racks by the supermarket with an explanation of "an error of the printer".
This was not the first time BigC violated food origin regulations. In March last year, the supermarket chain was fined VND10 million (US$476) for not publicly displaying the origins of their products.
The hygienic condition at the supermarket was another problem, said Ha Noi DoH Chief Inspector Mai Thi Hong Hanh.
"The bakery section's hygienic condition is substandard. That section is even placed right next to the fish area without proper measures to ensure hygienic safety," she said.
Meanwhile, the Metro supermarket on Hoang Mai Street failed to provide documents proving the origins of their vegetables while a number of imported frozen products lacked stamps indicating their origins.
Ha Noi health department Director Nguyen Khac Hien asked the two supermarkets to abide by food safety regulations and review whether their vegetable providers satisfied the necessary qualifications.
The inspection raised alarm about the quality of the supermarkets' products, especially after a scandal last week over the origins of the vegetables delivered by Ba Chu Safe Vegetables Co., Ltd. to three big supermarkets in the city (BigC, Metro and Lotte Mart). Those vegetables were allegedly bought from a wholesale market, stamped with fake safe vegetable stickers and put on the supermarkets' display racks.
Ba Chu and the supermarket chains involved are under investigation over food safety violations.