Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vietnam to be more selective about meat imports

VietNamNet/Thanh Nien
July 21, 2009

VietNamNet Bridge - Traders in the country will not be allowed to import goat penis and similar meat products that are not consumed in exporting countries, a senior animal health official said on July 18.

Bui Quang Anh, head of the Animal Health Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the department will ban the import of foods that are unused elsewhere.

Anh spoke to Thanh Nien after the paper carried reports about goat penis shipments from Australia contaminated with bacteria. The imports were labeled inedible but sold locally as food.
Tainted beef, pork and chicken were also found to be sold in Ho Chi Minh City as food.

Following the scandal, the department is “urgently checking current regulations concerning unhygienic food imports as well as safety standards for the shipment,” Anh said.

The task should be finished in two weeks, he said, adding that the department will add and adjust regulations when needed, or ask the ministry to do it.

The department will also ban the import of entrails as these easily get contaminated, he said, conceding Vietnam at present lacked capability to maintain very tight controls on food safety and hygiene.

Anh said the ministry should improve coordination with police, health officials, trade agencies and science and technology institutions to check imported food items when they first arrive; and to carry out surprise checks in cities and provinces nationwide.

Many tainted meat shipments have found their way into the domestic market legally, after irradiation, he noted.

While regulations stipulate that such products carry labels saying they are irradiated, very few traders were complying, Anh said.

The animal health department last Tuesday ordered domestic importers of animal products not to irradiate tainted shipment and introduce them into local markets.

Shipments that don’t meet safety standards of the Health Ministry must be sent back or destroyed, Anh said.

But the department will allow irradiation of products tainted on the way to Vietnam as long as these have been checked and certified by the exporting country as food fit for human consumption, he added.

Vietnam has signed a quarantine agreement with China, Laos and Cambodia in a bid to tighten control over the quality of animal products smuggled through the border gates.

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