Aggressively Fighting Unsafe Foods

10:54:14 AM | 4/4/2022

In 2018, Bac Ninh is one of three provinces and cities chosen by the Prime Minister to pilot a food safety authority. As its economy is booming, companies and industrial zones are growing and the role of a food safety authority is increasingly important as it gives a helping hand to socioeconomic development, community health and safety and environmental protection. To learn more about this issue, Vietnam Business Forum’s reporter has an interview with Mr. Nguyen Vinh Thanh, Director of Bac Ninh Food Safety Management Authority.

Could you please introduce the tasks of the Bac Ninh Food Safety Management Authority in 2021, especially the inspection and monitoring of food contamination hazards in the province?

In 2021, despite being adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, food safety was always closely directed by Bac Ninh province, based on levels of the pandemic. The Bac Ninh Food Safety Management Authority advised the Provincial Party Committee, the Provincial People's Committee and the Cross-sector Steering Committee on Food Safety to issue documents and plans regarding food safety in the province. We worked closely with relevant departments, organizations, Fatherland Front Office, mass organizations and local authorities. We also continuously improved administrative reform and information technology application, enhanced communication, raised awareness, knowledge and responsibility of all levels of government, sectors, mass organizations, businesses and people on food safety assurance, and achieved certain results as follows:

On advice on leadership and direction: The authority advised the Cross-sector Steering Committee to issue plans and launch a conference on the deployment of the month of action for food safety; carry out inspection and post-inspection plans; and promulgate guiding documents on food safety assurance in the province.

On food safety: In 2021, we organized 187 inspection and monitoring teams (including 160 inter-sector inspection teams and 27 specialized and post-inspection teams) to probe 1,045 establishments. By monitoring food contamination hazards, we took 3,669 food samples to test safety criteria and found that 2,931 samples were qualified (accounting for 80%) and 1,456 samples were disqualified (accounting for 20%).

To help consumers easily distinguish and access safe agricultural products and foods as well as easy traceability of products, we also guided, supervised and confirmed 26 safe food chains in the province, and joined with nearly 50 producers inside and outside the province, including large producers in Bac Ninh province.

In addition, we continued to launch projects such as the “Project on building organic agricultural, forest and aquatic production and supply chains in Bac Ninh province” and “food safety and food poisoning prevention model for feasts and gatherings”.

In 2021, we further focused on strengthening information and communication.

Bac Ninh province has many industrial zones. How is food safety assured in industrial zones?

Bac Ninh currently has 16 industrial parks, 26 industrial complexes and many traditional handicraft villages employing a lot of workers. Thus, there is a huge demand for daily food and strong potential for supporting service development. Administering food producers and suppliers for industrial zones is always a major concern of the authority.

Most food suppliers and service renderers in industrial zones have certificates of food safety or have written commitments to food safety, qualified standard facilities, equipment, tools and personnel. However, in order to assure food safety in industrial zones, we have strengthened state management of food safety, from appraising and issuing certificates of food safety; stepped up inspection; intensified hazard monitoring; and improved the capacity of poisoning investigation and settlement.

We attach great importance to reforming administrative procedures, reducing licensing time and easing trouble for businesses. Currently, 100% of administrative procedures and public services are assigned Level 3 and Level 4 service.

Competent authorities conduct an inspection of food safety in a business establishment

We continue to promote information and communication. We cooperate with the Bac Ninh Labor Confederation to organize a workshop on “Solutions to improve the effectiveness of communication and supervision of collective kitchens of trade unions in enterprises in the province”. We worked with the Bac Ninh Industrial Zones Authority and the Bac Ninh Labor Confederation to open six training courses on food safety for six companies with 2,106 union members, workers and kitchen staffs; organized training courses on food safety for managers, producers and suppliers of food, especially those working with industrial zones, with about 45,316 attendants.

Nevertheless, we still faced difficulties and challenges in ensuring food safety but our employees, including me, are working hard to study and find effective and practical solutions to advise the Provincial Party Committee and the Provincial People's Committee to direct food safety assurance to achieve the highest efficiency.

Food safety is an increasingly difficult and complicated matter. So, what are you most concerned about?

In my opinion, contaminated, disqualified, unsafe food is still circulated on the market, while it is hard to control food safety and traceability in populace markets and roadside eateries.
Moreover, some small producers and traders lack knowledge of the bad effects of origin-unknown and unsafe foods, especially when advertising and trading of such foods is complicatedly booming in the technology era and the reach of authority is unlikely. Therefore, the risk of food safety is still high.

The root of this is still awareness and business ethics of companies and perception of consumers. To solve those time-consuming matters, it is necessary to flexibly apply many solutions.
In order to arouse business ethics and deepen the awareness of food safety among producers, suppliers and consumers, we will further communicate on food safety by launching various content-rich forms like conferences and communication channels on mass media, the Radio and Television Broadcasting Station, Bac Ninh Newspaper and grassroots public speakers. We also actively communicate on websites of the provincial government, the Bac Ninh Food Safety Management Authority, the fanpages on social media networks, Zalo accounts, billboards, LED screens, banners and leaflets to convey messages appropriate to target groups.

What are the goals and tasks that you have set for 2022?

In 2022, in the accelerated section on the roadmap to get rid of unsafe food out of Bac Ninh province, the Bac Ninh Food Safety Management Authority aims to complete its main targets: Bring down food poisoning cases; have no deaths from food poisoning; have 95% of food producers, processors and traders, 100% of authorities, and 85% of consumers with right knowledge and practices on food safety; have 100% of province-level food producers and traders licensed with the certificate of eligibility of food safety and 90% of commune-level entities thus certified; and build 25 safe food production, processing, trading and supply chains in the province.

Sticking to the direction of central and provincial governments, as an administrator of food safety, the Bac Ninh Food Safety Management Authority is aggressively proposing many consistent solutions, from advising and promulgating documents, plans and proposals to ensure food safety; strengthening coordination of departments, agencies, organizations, mass organizations and local authorities to improve the capacity and effectiveness of governmental agencies on food safety; and fostering information and communication on food safety with diverse content-rich forms.

Thank you very much!

Source: Vietnam Business Forum