Tests find foam food packages safe in Vietnam: official

The National Institute for Testing Food Hygiene and Safety has carried out tests on polystyrene foam food packages and determined they don’t pose a health threat, said a health official on March 31.

A roadside vendor serves up hot food in a polystyrene foam carryout container (Photo: Thanh nien)

Nguyen Cong Khan, head of the Food Safety and Hygiene Department under the Ministry of Health, said the institute tested over 10 foam food package samples taken from roadside eateries in Hanoi.

The containers were subjected to heat and acid tests, but scientists failed to find any chemicals leaching out that would cause cancer or threaten human health.

Mr. Khan said the research was conducted on domestically made foam food packages after China recently announced a ban on the containers for food carryout.

He also warned that while the recent tests had not shown the Vietnamese containers to be dangerous, people should remain wary as some small-scale foam manufacturers may not meet quality standards for safety.

Moreover, there is no way to identify good-quality from low-quality products in terms of health safety, so many vendors simply use the cheapest ones available.

Other experts who were not involved in the recent tests have said that all foam carryout containers release toxic chemicals when used to hold hot food.

Dr. Tran Van Ky of the Vietnam Food Safety Association and Dr. Nguyen Xuan Mai of the Ho Chi Minh City-based Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, said foam and plastic packages are recycled products.

As such, during the processing of the containers, manufacturers must use industrial dissolvable and adhesive chemicals mixed with impurities, heavy metals and toxic substances.

Vietnamese people have used these foam packages for years to contain hot food. Sidewalk eateries and higher-end restaurants both use the containers, saying that currently, no affordable alternatives exist.

Related article:
Health ministry to investigate polystyrene food containers

Source: SGGP, Thanh Nien - Translated by Uyen Phuong

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