Chairing an online meeting with ministries, agencies and localities across the nation on food safety, Dam acknowledged that the legal framework on regulating food safety was better in 2013 and increasing inspections have occurred at all levels, with stronger co-ordination between the health sector and other authorities.
According to an assessment of 2013's work on food safety presented yesterday, authorities said the number of establishments in violation of food safety regulations fell from 21.2 per cent in 2012 to 20.1 per cent in 2013.
Notably, many cases of food safety violations have been reported in the media, raising awareness on food safety and educating all level of consumers.
However, many violations continue, such as the use of food additives, smuggled goods, and the slaughtering of animals that need to be more tightly controlled as more enforcement efforts are needed, officials acknowledged at the meeting.
Additionally, inspections will be increased from now until February 25, which is the period of the Tet holiday and other major festivals in February.
Also, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said the Ministry is looking at raising fines for food safety violations that could be seven times higher than current levels. Fine levels could be surged to VND200 million (US$9,500) for organisations or VND100 million ($4,750) for individuals.
In addition, other penalties could include the withdrawal of business licenses or publishing details of violations in the media.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat agreed that the tightening of quality checks on imported agricultural products in Viet Nam would also be a key in maintaining food safety in 2014.
Dam said enhancing the legal framework is particularly critical in controlling food safety, and increasing inspections, especially in the time leading up to Tet, will be effective, especially if those efforts focus on particular products and regions.
Also, all agencies must intensify information campaigns to raise awareness among the public, especially at the local and communal levels, he said.
Deputy PM Dam has instructed ministries, sectors and localities to keep a close watch on the spread of diseases to ensure that the Government's responses to such disease outbreaks are timely and effective.
Dam agreed that there is a need to prevent the smuggling of poultry, cattle and their body parts to control possible disease outbreaks, improve food safety and protect people's health.
Various ministries and sectors were urged to improve their inspection procedures and handle smuggling cases firmly, while encouraging people to participate in the fight against smuggling.
Dam suggested the Health Ministry raise awareness of the importance of preventive measures, while monitoring the living conditions and eating habits of people.
In addition, the ministry must work with other agencies to carry out campaigns that protect people's health, he added.
According to the Health Ministry, there was a decline in the number of infectious disease cases and fatalities in 2013.
During the year, the ministry provided timely reports to the Prime Minister on the outbreak of diseases and related developments, as well as successfully coordinated with the People's Committees in provinces and cities to implement preventive measures.
However, infectious disease epidemics are unpredictable and can occur inside or outside the country. Therefore, the ministry has requested the government to set up a National Steering Committee to help prevent the spread of diseases and enforce the strict quarantine of people and animals at the border gates to stop the spread of infectious or dangerous diseases.