The Vietnamese government has increased penalties for food safety violations by 350 per cent after a string of embarrassing scandals, including the sale of chemically enhanced shrimp and coffee made from dirt and batteries.
The new regulations, which went into effect October 20, require that violators be fined up to $5,840, or seven times the value of the tainted goods. All food violations will be directly subject to fines without warnings, according to the new government decree. The new fines are 3.5 times higher than the previous food safety penalties, which were established in 2013.
“It is vital to enhance the post-inspection work on food safety and hygiene to better control food quality”, Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien was quoted as saying.
Additionally, the punishment for plant and animal products that fail to pass veterinary and hygiene inspections requirements will now be between $854 to $1,709. The use of prohibited chemicals or diseased animals in food products will draw a fine of $3,410 to $5,840 if the products are worth more than $427. Products below this amount will be fined $1,709 to $2,130.
Huge number of food safety breaches detected
Depending on the severity of the offence, further penalties may include suspension, the revocation of food safety certificates or product confiscation.
In the first six month of 2018 more than 1,600 food safety violators were punished and more than $191,300 worth of fines were imposed, according to the Ministry of Health, which also said that over 68,000 businesses had violated food safety and hygiene laws.
Vietnam’s increased scrutiny of food safety follows a number of high-profile violations.
In 2016, video footage went viral showing tiger prawns injected with Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC), a chemical additive imported from China to increase weight and value. CMC, also known as cellulose gum, is mostly considered harmless, although experts say it may carry unknown risks.
Police raided a factory and found tonnes of coffee made from batteries. Video Viral Press
Contaminants pumped into frozen shrimp increased weight in Vietnam. Video Now What You Want?
Phan Thi Kim Luyen, the owner of the business named in the video, said that one kilogram of shrimp could be increased to weigh as much as o 1.2 kg after being injected with CMC.
Luyen said that each day she bought 30 to 50 kg of shrimp and sold the injected product to seafood export companies in the southern city of Ca Mau.
Since that time, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (Mard) has investigated over 10,300 businesses and found that 1,107 of them injected CMC into shrimp. According to official figures, more than $105,600 in total fines were imposed.
Violators said that a gram of CMC powder is sold for about $1.20, and that three grams can be made into 50kilograms (about 110lbs) of liquid, which can be used to inject one ton of shrimp.
In another episode in April, the Vietnamese authorities arrested five people in Dak Nong province on suspicion of producing coffee from used batteries, dirt, and rock dust, according to a report in the Tuoi Tre News.
Nguyen Thi Loan, the owner of the coffee factory, told police she bought non-approved coffee beans from other facilities at low prices. The beans were then ground and mixed with other ingredients such as dirt and rock dust. Finally, the mixture was dyed black.
Police seized 12 tons of illegal coffee during the raid. According to the police, they found 35 kilograms (77lbs) of powder extracted from used batteries and 10 kilograms (22lbs) of black liquid.
The five suspects could face up to 20 years in jail.
Feature photo Viral Press
- Vietnam’s Food Safety Regulations (Vietnam Briefing)
- Manufacturers warned as Vietnam government raises food safety violation fines by 350% (Food Navigator-Asia)
- VN announces new standards for chilled meat (Viet Nam News)
She commenced as an intern at AEC News Today and was appointed as a junior writer/ trainee journalist on April 2, 2018