Vietnam to probe mass-produced fish sauce

By Toan Dao   October 10, 2016 | 09:30 pm GMT+7
Vietnam to probe mass-produced fish sauce
Masan Group's Nam Ngu brand fish sauce displayed for sale at a market in Hanoi. Photo by Reuters

PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc orders the inspection.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has ordered the ministries of health and industry to check the quality of popular fish sauce products in Vietnam, after a news report said that a large number of chemicals are used by the industry.

The ministries are expected to submit a report on their findings by October 22, according to a directive posted Monday on the government's news portal.

No particular brand has been singled out for the inspection.

Earlier the same day, an article in Thanh Nien newspaper said 17 chemical additives, including flavor enhancers, coloring agents and preservatives, were found in the popular fish sauce Nam Ngu.

According to the report, industrially made fish sauce products do not disclose exactly how much of their sauce really comes from fish.

Thanh Nien's report quoted Tran Van Ky, a doctor from the southern office of the Scientific and Technological Association of Food Safety, as saying that all the 17 chemical additives are allowed to be used in food production. 

According to the report, traditional fish sauce products are healthier but more expensive. A factory-made bottle costs less than $2, but a bottle of traditionally fermented sauce can cost nearly $9.

In a statement released to the media, Masan, the producer of Nam Ngu fish sauce, is confident that its products meet high safety standards, saying it has been working closely with quality control agencies.

The company also said results of the government inspection should be publicized to “protect the legal rights of consumers and honest producers.”

As fish sauce is the essence of Vietnamese cuisine and is used in almost all dishes, it creates a lucrative market for food producers.

Vietnam consumes some 200 million liters of fish sauce every year. Annual sales of fish sauce in the country are about VND7.2-7.5 trillion ($320-333 million), according to data from the General Statistics Office.

Euromonitor, a global market intelligence publisher, however, reported that the sales value of fish sauce in Vietnam last year was VND11.3 trillion ($501 million).

Thanh Nien reported that industrially made products accounted for 76 percent of the market.

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