HCM City develops market model to ensure food safety

HCM CITY - The municipal Department of Industry and Trade has begun applying a traditional market model that meets food safety and hygiene standards.

Le Ngoc Dao, deputy director of the department, said the model is being developed as a response to a directive from the Ministry of Industry and Trade to meet customers' demand for clean products.

The Ben Thanh Market in District 1 and Tan Xuan wholesale market in Hoc Mon District will be chosen as pilot institutions to apply the model that will require most target products to have evidence of origin, have reputable brand names and expiry date clearly mentioned on their labels.

Among the targeted produce are fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as meat. The model is expected to boost sales of vegetables that meet VietGAP standards.

Food and beverage items must also include a label of origin of the raw materials used to make them.

Vo Thi Chat, a trader at the Tan Xuan wholesale market, said, "I am participating in free training courses on food safety and hygiene in order to supply my products to kitchens and supermarkets in the city."

Most traders at the two markets said that all the vegetables and fruits at the markets are carefully selected.

Any poor quality product like damaged vegetable or fruits must be thrown away and not sold to unwary customers, said one trader.

Nguyen Thi Kim Dung, another trader at Tan Xuan wholesale market, said "We work closely with the producers or farmers to ask them not to use banned chemicals and/ or additives."

Nguyen Thi Ha, a trader at Ben Thanh market, said traders in food and beverage shops are attending meetings on food and hygiene issues every month.

"Under the model we have to note down the origins of our products everyday. Staff at food and beverage shops should have health check ups every six months," she said.

Still confused

Many traders in the two markets are still confused and are not willing to join the project that has just begun implementation.

Dao said most dealers in the traditional markets are used to selling cheap products that cannot show their production origins.

He said many vendors neglect food safety and hygiene standards as they try to maximise profits.

However, for their part, the vendors and traders said it is difficult for them to trace the origins of products like vegetables, fruit, fish and shrimp.

They said the quality of products, especially food items, vegetables and fruit, must be ensured and verified by authorities at the production stage, so traders can easily choose them to supply to their consumers.

A pork trader at the Tan Xuan market suggested that the city enable traders to know where to source safe meat.

Nguyen Tien Dung, deputy director of the Tan Xuan wholesale market, said the city needs to better disseminate needed information to traders at the two markets.

The municipal industry and trade department has said it will organise workshops to disseminate information to traders and provide training sessions on food safety and hygiene standards.

The media also plays an important role in raising consumers' awareness of using clean products as well as promoting branded vegetable products that meet VietGAP standards, officials said.

The department has asked producers of safe vegetables and fruits to offer more incentive for traders in order to promote and ensure outlets for their products.

Dao said the model would be soon extended to other traditional markets and distributors in the city, covering a wider range of products.

At present, customers want to buy safe products but have no idea where to get them, while producers with safe products don't know how to market them effectively, he said. - VNS