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Which channel is consuming imported pork?

09:47 | 08/11/2019

VCN- Recently, imported pork has been sold widely with the price equal to half of the domestic pork price, making consumers doubt the quality of this product.  

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Fresh chilled meat products are attracting consumers' attention. Photo: Internet.

Is there quality assurance?

Data from the General Department of Customs shows that in the first 7 months of 2019, Vietnam imported more than 11,000 tons of pork with an import turnover of over US$22 million, up 3.7 times in volume and 4.3 times in value compared to with the same period in 2018. Import markets are mainly the US, Canada, Brazil and France.Explaining the reason for the rapid increase inpork imports, the experts said that the amount of meat imported into Vietnam increased sharply to compensate for the shortage of domestic supply caused by African swine fever.

Regarding the consumption channel of imported pork, according to the reporter's study, these products are on the shelves of some supermarkets, clean food stores, frozen food stores, and are advertised on a number of websites, as well as some personal Facebook pages. At a clean food store on Lang Pagoda street, Dong Da, Hanoi,there are many imported meat products from Poland, USA and Spain.These products sell for half the price of fresh domestic products.Specifically, pig’s trotters are 35,000 VND per kg, ribs are 60,000 VND per kg, shoulder is70,000 VND per kg. In addition, some types of trimmings are very cheap, at just over 20,000 VND per kg.

Users of imported pork are bars, restaurants, and establishments selling processed food. According to the explanation of these establishments, the price of imported frozen pork is halfthe price of fresh Vietnamese goods, so when processing food, restaurants will save money.

Facing the fact that a high amountof pork is importedinto Vietnam, many people are concerned that imported pork through many stages, subject to import tax but cheap, equal to domestically produced pork, whether there is quality assurance?

Mr. Nguyen DuyThinh, Institute of Biotechnology and Food, Hanoi University of Science and Technology, said that labor costs in countries where Vietnam is importing pork are many times higher than our country, plus transportation costs, and import tax, so the cost of imported pork into Vietnam should be equal to the price of domestic pork.

Mr. Thinh stated that a good quality product cannot be exported with the above price. Therefore, it is not excluded that the importerswere a commercial fraud, whichmeans the importersboughtnearly expired goodsat low prices then changed the labels to sell to consumers.

Besides, in the opinion of this expert, the source of pork imported from the US and Canada may have residues of lean ractopamine. Vietnam has banned the use of Beta-agonist-based lean substances (including clenbuterol, salbutamol and ractopamine) but the US and Canada still use ractopamine in breeding pigs, cows, chickens and horses.The export countries regulate to stop using them for a while before slaughter and limit the maximum amount allowed.However, they are bannedin Vietnam, so in principle, Vietnam should ban imports of pigs bred with lean substances.

On the side of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Nguyen Xuan Duong, Acting Director of the Department of Livestock Production, said that the price of imported pork into Vietnam was cheap due to the classification of meat on pigs and other consumer culture habits.Accordingly, in the United States and Western countries, griskin and bacon, shoulder are often the most expensivebecausethese meat products contain less cholesterol and are good for health. Meanwhile, rump and rib meat are cheaper; ear, pig’s trotters, pig’s head, trimmings and organ products are consideredby-products so their prices are very cheap.

Change consumption habits

Before the import of pork is sold at half the price of domestic pork, consumers are interested in the cheap price and they want to try to see how the foreign meat tastes compared to domestic products.

Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hanh, Vu Huu Street, Thanh Xuan, Hanoi said that most Vietnamese consumers had a preference for using fresh meat,which is slaughtered and sold immediately to the market, while the fresh chilled meat manufactured by domestic enterprises had not attracted consumers. However, for the cheap price of imported pork, Mrs. Hanh and some neighbors decided to try to buy a few imported pork products from the US. "I think that the US is a developed country, probably the process of food safety control is strict,so we feel secure," Mrs. Hanh said.

However, most consumers think thatfrozen meat is frozen during transportation and storage long before being marketed, these meats are not as good as pork produced in the country. Regarding this issue, Mr. Nguyen DuyThinh said that during the freezing process, water crystallized and cut into meat tissue.When defrosting, most peopleonly soak for a short time and then process, causing water of the meat to decrease, the meat is lessvisually appealing and thetaste fades.

According to this expert, in addition to fresh pork produced by traditional methods, people should have a habit of using fresh chilled meats. Specifically, in our country, a national standard for fresh chilled meat was announced in 2018. Accordingly, pork immediately after slaughter is cooled to ensure the meat in the thickest part reaches a temperature of 0 degrees C to 4 degrees C for no more than 24 hours after slaughter. This is the ideal temperature because under this condition, microorganisms are inhibiting in growth, maintaining some enzymes that help keep meat fresh and keep nutrients inside.

In addition, with imported pork, many people think that Vietnam should conduct meat quality testing from importing countries and take measures to manage this product more strictly. If necessary, stop importing meat ifbanned substancesunder Vietnamese regulations are detected, such as lean ractopamine.

Regarding this proposal, from the perspective of the State management agency, Mr. Nguyen Xuan Duong said that Vietnam was integrating with the world, so the prohibition or non-prohibition should be carefully considered in many aspects, avoiding affecting Vietnam's diplomatic relations with other countries, and creating anxiety for people.

With concerns about the risk of imported nearly-expired pork, according to Mr. Duong,Vietnam will build technical barriersto limit some poorquality, nearly-expired meat products, andproducts affecting human health, because if these foods are flooded into our country, not only domestic farmers would be affected negatively, but also consumers' health would potentially be threatened.

By D.Ngan/ Binh Minh