February 23, 2019 15:45

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Inadequacies in food safety inspections

11:59 | 13/04/2017

VCN- The inspections of food safety for imported goods have caused many shortcomings, including time, costs and put a heavy pressure on the authorities.

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inadequacies in food safety inspections
Customs officers of Saigon port, Zone 1 check imported food. Photo: Thu Hoa.

The violation rate is very low

According to analysis of the HCM City Customs Department, Clause 1b of Article 38 of the Law on Food Safety regulates: "Food, food additives, food processing tools, packaging materials and foodstuffs for consumption must be notified of the results of certification on food safety to meet import requirements for each shipment designated by inspection agency". This means that 100% of the above-mentioned consignments must carry out the food safety inspections without application of risk management, putting enormous pressure on the executing agency.

Meanwhile, the results of the inspections showed very few cases of violations (in 2016, there were only 30 cases out of 67,224 cases (accounting for 0.04%) not meeting the requirements of food safety inspections), causing great waste for enterprises.

At a recent meeting with the HCM City Customs Department, a representative of the Vietnam Dairy Products Joint Stock Company (Vinamilk) said that 95% of imported goods of businesses must be checked food safety. But the problem is that for 20 years, there have been no import shipments that do not meet food safety standards, but they still have to be checked.

Based on this fact, the HCM City Customs Department has proposed to adjust the above regulations towards risk management to check food safety for key imported goods, improving the effectiveness of performance.

In addition, the inspections of food safety are implemented on a large scale, causing difficulties for businesses. Clause 1, Article 2 of the Law on Food Safety stipulated that "Food safety is to ensure that food does not harm human health". Thus, the goal of food safety inspections is to detect and prevent food containing poisonous ingredients or bacterial contents that are harmful to human health. However, in fact, the food safety inspections must be conducted according to regulations on the conformity of food safety and product quality. Thus, one of the ingredients of the product has a bad result after food safety inspections, the product will not be recognized as a food safety product. This has cost time and charges for businesses.

3 Ministries conducted inspections together

According to the reflection of enterprises, many products are at the same time subject to the inspections of food safety and quarantine inspections. Therefore, 2 different inspection agencies have prolonged the time and increased the cost of inspections. For example, avocado, milk, cheese and canned food are under the food safety management of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, but they are subject to animal quarantine of the Regional Animal Health Office No. VI - the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, food safety inspections at the Public Health Institute of Ho Chi Minh City (under the Ministry of Health) or Center 3 (under the General Department of Standards and Quality – the Ministry of Science and Technology) because of the Regional Animal Health Office No. VI has not been designated by the Ministry of Industry and Trade for food safety inspections.

According to the Ho Chi Minh City Customs Department, if the Ministry of Industry and Trade allows veterinary agencies to conduct food safety inspections, enterprises will be subject to the control of only one agency for both quarantine and food safety inspections.

In order to avoid overlapping inspections, the HCM City Customs Department has recommended the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to agree on criteria for food safety inspections as regulated in the Food Safety Law. Accordingly, these agencies only check the criteria of products related to food safety, actively check and remove the overlapping inspections of products, including quarantine and food safety inspections.

In addition, all 3 Ministries have conducted inspections together, but there has been an inconsistency between the regulations in the circulars of each Ministry. Specifically, food safety inspections have stipulated the responsibility of each Ministry for each product and each Ministry issued a circular guiding the implementation of food safety inspections. However, the Circulars containing regulations on food safety inspections are inconsistent in terms of inspection methods, inspection registration, time of implementation, Customs regulations, etc, causing difficulties for importers but food safety inspection agencies.

In addition, domestic inspection agencies have not recognized the results or certification of good quality from export countries even though imports are famous products of advanced countries.

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Thus, the Ho Chi Minh City Customs Department has recommended the need to unify inspection regulations among Ministries; accepting the results of inspections and certification of foreign quality for well-known and prestigious imported products.

By Le Thu/ Hoang Anh