Yuck! Vietnam Prawns Pumped Full of Gluggy, Snot-like Gel

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes |

Vietnam prawns earned the country US$1.56 billion in exports in the first half of this year, a 15.7 per cent year-on-year (YoY) increase over the same period last year, with Japan replacing the USA as the country’s largest export destination.

However, before tossing some Vietnam prawns on the barbie, into your Phla kung (spicy Thai prawn salad), or whipping up some miso butter shrimp, it may worth giving them a bit of a squeeze first. If they start oozing a gluggy, gel-like substance that looks similar to thick nasal snot, it is probably best to avoid them.

In the video above Vietnamese police and officials in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) are filmed raiding a prawn plumping factory, almost a year after a similar news report was aired (see below) in Vietnam, raising concerns as to how widespread the practice might be and the effect on consumer’s health from a product that is not ordinarily subjected to intense heat, such as prawns are when being cooked.

The video above comes less than two weeks after the expiration of a ban imposed on the import of uncooked Vietnam prawns by the Australian government in response to an outbreak of white spot disease, which has seen supply contract dramatically and driving local prices skywards.

Previously representing about 3.6 per cent of the Vietnam prawn sector’s total exports, the six-month long Australian ban has contributed to a 5.3 per cent YoY fall in exported Vietnam tiger prawns in the first six months of this year.

While there is no evidence to suggest that the Vietnam prawns in the video above were destined for the international market, there is equally no evidence to say they were not.

In the video about 27 workers are caught in the act. Injecting a snotty, gel-like substance suspected to be carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC), a viscosity modifier or thickener commonly found in products such as ice cream, toothpaste, water-based paints, detergents and drilling mud in the mining industry, into uncooked Vietnam prawns scattered across the floor and on random piles of ice.

In a nearby storage room police discover containers filled with a congealed, pasty, gel-like substance suspected of being the same chemical, while in one corner of the room a large steel pot sits atop a fire, its contents giving the appearance of a pot of bubbling snot.

When some of the material from the storage barrels is placed in a test tube and subjected to heat it rapidly returns to liquid form, before turning an ugly black colour on further heating.

An inspection of some of the adulterated Vietnam prawns by officials shows that the snotty-like substance is difficult to detect due to its colour and consistency at room temperature.

While the expiration of the Australian ban on live Vietnam prawn exports will be a welcome relief for Vietnam prawn farmers, the requirement for future exports to fully comply with Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP) standards may be challenging so long as practices such as plumping prawns with CMC or other substances continues.

 

 

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