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Ministry calls for more control over quality of food produced in nation
04 | 10 | 2007
HA NOI — Authorities need to improve monitoring of businesses that produce and sell agricultural materials to ensure consumer safety, said Deputy director of Hai Phong Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nguyen Van Tung.

The comments follow a report and discussions on work carried out during the recent Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) action month, which lasted from late January to the end of February.

Work carried out during the action month identified urgent issues that needed to be addressed, according to MARD.

Speaking at a conference on Wednesday to review the action month, deputy head of the ministry’s Department of Science and Technology, Le Van Bam, said that besides enhancing dissemination to raise awareness on agricultural safety, relevant agencies had tightened inspection of agricultural materials and food processing.

During the month-long campaign, 194 out of the total 1,493 businesses selling chemicals used to protect plants, fertiliser, animal feed and animal medicine were found to have made violations. Most violations included businesses operating without licenses or using low-quality and out-of-date materials.

Inspection of 67 animal feed processing units in the three provinces of Ha Tay, Ben Tre and Ca Mau, resulted in eight businesses having to re-produce their products after violations were discovered. Half of 38 animal feed samples tested in Dong Thap Province were found not to meet quality standards.

Use of chemicals on vegetables and fruits was examined by the Plant Protection Department, which worked with localities to check on the use of chemicals on vegetable and green tea crops at 25 units and 267 households. Fifty-three of them used chemicals that were not permitted to be used. Inspectors at two supermarkets and nine wholesale markets in Ha Noi, HCM City and other provinces found that 22 per cent of vegetables and tea samples were contaminated with dangerous levels of chemicals, with 16 samples exceeding the limit.

Businesses involved in slaughtering animals that were inspected also caused alarm, with 40 per cent of 929 units violating regulations with unauthorised or low-quality products.

Solutions discussed

Deputy director of Hai Phong Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nguyen Van Tung called on authorities to focus more attention on enterprises which produce and sell agricultural materials.

"When farmers have clean materials, they will produce clean agricultural products," said Tung.

Tung called on the drafting of policy that would encourage those enterprises to develop with better consumer safety standards.

"The State should invest and equip localities to have capacity to analyse material samples and agricultural products quickly and correctly," he said.

Head of the Department of Food Hygiene and Safety, under the Ministry of Health, Tran Dang, suggested shifting more responsibility in the area to consumers by labelling safe products during the processing stage.

"Products should be checked at farms by producers so that when they are on consumers’ dining tables, they are still fresh and clean," he said.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cao Duc Phat, said the action month would be a regular and key task for the sector. It would be implemented synchronously and thoroughly in the coming time, he said.

MARD would focus on food safety in its agricultural expansion programme, he said.

"Firstly, there will be areas to plant safe vegetables, fruit and tea, together with areas to raise pigs and poultry which are safe from diseases," Phat said.

In addition, MARD plans to implement urgent solutions to ensure food safety by regularly checking the use of chemicals on plants. All violations would be punished strictly, Phat said. — VNS

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