Several Hanoi markets fail food safety test

Customers purchase pork at Hom market in Ha Noi. Concerns are raised over hygiene and food safety at several local markets across the city.

HA NOI - Pham Nam Anh, a 28-year-old Ha Noi man, was recently hospitalised after eating spring rolls he bought at a market in the city's Long Bien District.

"My stomach felt painful and I started vomiting two hours after having dinner with my wife. I was taken to the hospital late at night and became unconscious," he said.

Anh's wife had similar, but less serious symptoms.

Anh and his wife are among the hundreds of people who suffer from food poisoning in the city every year.

Early last month, more than 100 workers in Chuong My District were hospitalised with food poisoning after eating a meal at their company.

Food that has not been certified as safe or carries no certificates of origin can be found at markets throughout the city.

This led the director of the city's Health Department, Nguyen Khac Hien, to head an inspection team this month to check food safety and hygiene at markets, food production premises and at school and company canteens.

Hien said the origin and quality of food and vegetables sold at markets, especially temporary ones, was hard to check because street markets could open anywhere.

He said during inspections, many shop owners failed to present verification documents for their products.

Specifically, many butchers at Nghia Tan Market in Cau Giay District could not provide registration or verification papers or the names of suppliers. The owners of vegetable stalls were in a similar situation.

Hien said the inspectors asked market shop owners to promise they would only buy meat and vegetables from the registered slaughter houses, poultry farms and vegetable producers.

However, most shop owners at the markets had little idea about the Law on Food Safety and Hygiene.

Trinh Thai Ha, a vegetable shop owner at Long Bien District's Gia Lam Market said: "I have no time to participate in training about food safety and hygiene or reading the law."

Like Ha, "being busy" was a common excuse given by most shop owners at city markets.

Hien said the health sector would try and boost inspections at markets, especially on the origin of raw products and the way they were produced.

Food production facilities would also be put under strict supervision and violators punished according to the law, he said.

Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien asked authorities to publish the name and location of shops and producers caught violating food safety and hygiene regulations in public media.

She said if offenders were caught repeating violations, their business registration certificate would be revoked.

For many years, Ha Noi authorities have been trying to clear temporary markets and street vendors from the city.

Nearly 200 food poisoning cases involving about 5,000 people were reported in Viet Nam last year. More than 40 victims died.