Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Vietnam - PM orders probe into industrial fish sauce
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has tasked the Ministry of Health to quickly clarify the contents of an article published by Thanh Niên (Young People) newspaper about “industrial” fish sauces containing a number of chemical additives being sold in the market. — Photo zing.vn
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has tasked the Ministry of Health to quickly clarify the contents of an article published by Thanh Niên (Young People) newspaper about “industrial” fish sauces containing a number of chemical additives being sold in the market.
The Prime Minister’s requirement was issued a few hours after the newspaper published an article titled “Water + chemicals = industrial fish sauce” on Monday morning.
In Việt Nam, traditional fish sauce is made from two ingredients - fish and salt, thus it has high concentrations of protein and salinity. In the meantime, "industrial fish sauce" has much lower concentration of protein and salinity, and contains dozens of chemical additives.
Phúc asked the health ministry to co-operate with the Ministry of Industry and Trade to conduct inspections and submit a report to him before October 22.
According to Thanh Niên (Young People) newspaper, up to 17 chemical additives, including flavour enhancers, colouring agents, and preservatives were found in one of the most popular industrial fish sauces on the market. Additionally, the popular fish sauce did not provide information on exactly how much of its sauce was made from fish.
Thanh Niên newspaper also quoted Trần Văn Ký, a doctor from the Việt Nam Food Safety Association (VINAFOSA), who said that although the chemical additives used in industrial fish sauces were permitted by authorised agencies, consumers’ health might still be affected if they consume it on a daily basis.
In another development, participants at a workshop, themed “ Fish sauce – Conserving and developing traditional fish sauce” held on Monday in HCM City said there should be a regulation to standardise nutritional information given on each bottle of fish sauce so that consumers could easily distinguish between traditional and "industrial fish sauce".
At present, each producer provided nutritional information under their own guidelines, potentially confusing "industrial fish sauce" with traditional fish sauce, the participants said.
The confusion would affect the competitiveness of traditional fish sauce producers, Ngô Quang Tú, head of Processing and Preserving Seafood Office under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Department said.
This was because the traditional fish sauce, with higher concentration of protein and salinity, often was sold at higher prices than "industrial fish sauce", he said.
Additionally, traditional fish sauce producers nationwide also faced difficulties in competing with industrial fish sauce producers due to a lack of anchovy supply – the main material in traditional fish sauce, said Nguyễn Thị Tịnh, former head of Phú Quốc Fish Sauce Association.
Therefore, traditional fish sauce producers suffer increasing production costs, pushing the selling price higher than that of industrial fish sauce, she said.
It costs about about VNĐ43,000 ($2) per litre of "industrial fish sauce" and about VNĐ160,000-200,000 ($7-9) per litre of traditional fish sauce, depending on the concentration of protein.
Statistics from the General Statistics Office showed the country consumes about 200 million litres of fish sauce each year.
According to Euromonitor data, Việt Nam’s fish sauce market was worth VNĐ11.3 trillion (US$506 million) in 2015, of which "industrial fish sauce" accounted for 76 per cent.