Marching for the action month for food safety
In recent years, there have still existed
inadequacies concerning food safety in Dong Nai province. Particularly, some
cases of mass food poisoning have still occurred, making a lot of people suffer.
According to Mr. Nguyen Van Huu, Director of Dong Nai Bureau of Food Safety and
Hygiene at Department of Health, there have been 6 food poisoning cases with 145
victims including a death due to eat a mangrove horseshoe crab since early this
year. In the previous years, most food poisoning incidents occurred in canteen
kitchens but mainly in schools and street food places this year. One of the main
reasons is that most of businesses and facilities selling foods in front of
schools, school canteens, and smalled and scattered food suppliers for wedding
parties. In addition, supervision and inspection have not been tightened, which
results in high risk of food poisoning cases.
Mass food poisoning cases have caused a lot of
people to suffer. For instance, not long ago 22 students at Hung Loc primary
school in Hung Loc commune in Thong Nhat district had to be hospitalized in the
medical center of Thong Nhat district for emergency on December 15 due to food
poisoning with such symptoms as abdominal pain, dizziness, and nausea.
Not only food poisoning cases at schools but also
those at wedding parties have tended to increase with 2 cases in Thong Nhat and
Tan Phu districts affecting 31 victims. After attending wedding parties, dozens
of people suffering from gastrointestinal disorders and acute diarrhea were
hospitalized for treatment, and diagnosed for eating contaminated food.
The risk of food poisoning in canteen kitchens has
still been high. One of the main reasons is that the cost of industrial meals in
some businesses is still lower than VND13,000 whereas Vietnam Labor Federation
Labor has called for businesses to increase it up to at least VND15,000 for an
industrial meal. In addition, businesses are still not interested in investing
in infrastructure for canteen kitchens and in some places infrastructure is
deteriorating, failing to meet requirements for hygiene.
Therefore, in the forthcoming time the health sector
will increase its unexpected food safety and hygiene inspections at school
canteens; ask schools to perform bidding for canteen business so that canteen
owners can invest in infrastructure and ensure food safety; offer training
courses to managers and food handlers so that they can grasp fundamental
knowledge of the risk of food poisoning and processing to ensure food safety.
Due to the poor value of meals, some businesses have
not paid attention to providing food handlers with knowledge of food safety. For
example, there is a business where a series of food safety incidents have
occurred. Particularly, in the past years Mien Que Trading and Manufacturing
Co., Ltd in Nhon Trach 2 Industrial Park in Nhon Trach district has had two food
safety incidents with 229 hospitalized cases due to eating allergenic foods like
giant elephant ear or food with too much sodium glutamate. This was not a food
poisoning but a food safety incident due to the fact that the process of
handling giant elephant ear handlers forgot to remove all the skin of this plant
and then soak them in salty water to reduce the level of resin from the plant,
which might cause an itch on eaters’ throats and tongues.
Strengthening the inspection activities to ensure
In order to reduce food poisoning cases in canteen
kitchens, in the coming time the health sector will enhance its training on
self-inspection and supervision for canteen kitchens as well as focus more on
sample supervision; and step up food traceability to promptly detect, warn and
prevent food poisoning cases.
According to Dr. Phan Huy Anh Vu, Deputy Director of
Dong Nai Department of Health, since the previous years the health sector has
not only managed but also regularly inspected these places closely. Each year,
the health sector conducts inspection and supervision twice. Particularly, the
State Prime Minister asked to inspect businesses only once a year, so the health
sector checked these places once, managed them on file through their contracts
of supplying daily input food materials. In addition, labor unions and health
care assistants of businesses must monitor food resources every day. In
particular, input additives must also have tags that mention origins clearly.
In addition to relying on the health sector’s
resources to control and disseminate propaganda information on food safety to
industrial meal suppliers, canteen kitchens are required to coordinate with both
the Agriculture sector and the Industry and Trade sector. Over the past years,
these three sectors have jointly organized 10 training courses on VietGAP, food
safety, and so on.
During the peak time, inter-sector inspection teams
will also intensify their inspection at canteen kitchens and coordinate with
newspaper and radio agencies to report on violations and provide information on
sources of safe foods, especially sources of safe pork.
Also, according to Dr. Phan Huy Anh Vu, Deputy
Director of the Department of Health, in the coming year the provincial health
sector will develop a project to set up a food safety testing laboratory at Dong
Nai Center for Pharmaceutical Testing and Cosmetics to take samples and do tests
on food safety and hygiene criteria instead of having to send samples to Ho Chi
Minh city. By doing this, the health sector will be able to detect more
violations and find a basis for strictly handling these violations. In addition,
levels of authorities and functional agencies will have to participate more
strongly to ensure food safety for people in the province.
Duy Minh (An Nhien)