Vietnam: Food poisoning alarm in Delta

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DONG THAP — The number of food poisoning cases has risen alarmingly in Dong Thap Province, says Dr Nguyen Ngoc An, director of the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province’s health department.

The situation had been made worse by unusual climate conditions, low public awareness of proper hygiene, and increasing violations of food safety regulations, An said, noting that three major outbreaks of food poisoning, affecting a total of 40 people, had occurred in Dong Thap in 2008.


In order to better enforce food safety and hygiene regulations, An said Dong Thap planned to launch a month-long campaign on April 15 to raise awareness of the issue among both consumers and business.

"During the campaign, we will focus inspection on food production and business establishments that are at a high risk of causing food poisoning," he said. "Violators will be fined or have their business licences revoked, depending on their violation, while their products will be destroyed."

The problem has continued to worsen, but authorities lack qualified, professional staff or equipment to deal with it, according to Dr Vo Ngoc Bich, deputy head of the faculties of nutrition and food safety and hygiene at the Dong Thap provincial Preventive Medicine Centre.

The province was home to about 9,000 food-service and processing establishments and three industrial zones which draw thousands of workers, but specialised food safety and hygiene personnel were inadequate in numbers and resources, Bich said.

The lack of staff had kept the province from being able to issue or enforce food safety standards, she added.

Over 80 out of the 142 communes had set up food safety and hygiene inspection teams, but most lacked training, she noted.

The problems has not been limited to Dong Thap, with provinces throughout the Delta region reporting a rise in food poisoning outbreaks.

In Tra Vinh Province, six outbreaks were recorded, affecting over 500 people. Agencies there discovered 3,770 establishments violating food safety and hygiene regulations between 2004 and 2008, but only 185 violators were fined for a total of only VND97.7 million (US$5,700).

In An Giang Province, agencies inspected 8,575 out of 14,000 food-handling establishments in 2008 and performed around 2,800 tests relating to food safety and hygiene, according to provincial data.

Hau Giang Province employed only three staff for food safety and hygiene inspections, and Nguyen Van Muoi, deputy director of the Hau Giang health department, said the set-up remained unprofessional and inadequate. — VNS


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