Hanoi advertising firm sponsored controversial fish sauce survey: trade ministry

By Nguyen Hoai   November 29, 2016 | 08:05 pm PT
Hanoi advertising firm sponsored controversial fish sauce survey: trade ministry
Vinastas has not received any penalty for publishing the survey that spread false information about Vietnamese traditional fish sauce. Photo by VnExpress
The government is investigating if any other individuals or organizations are involved.

Vietnam’s government has identified T&A Ogilvy. a Hanoi-based major communication and advertising firm, as the sponsor of a survey that provided false information about arsenic levels in traditional fish sauce.

The trade ministry said at a government press briefing on Tuesday that T&A Ogilvy, a member of the UK-headquartered global advertising group Ogilvy and Mather, sponsored the controversial survey by Vietnamese consumer group Vinastas.

But the ministry said it is still investigating whether the financial support was linked to other individuals or organizations.

“The survey was not independent or objective, and was confusing to the public,” the ministry said in a statement at the briefing.

The Vietnam Standards and Consumers Association, known as Vinastas, released the survey on October 17 saying that nearly 70 percent of the 150 tested samples of traditional fish sauce on the market had excess levels of arsenic.

The Vietnamese government, however, dismissed the findings, and said the organic arsenic found in fish sauce is safe and should be distinguished from its inorganic form.

Fish sauce is an essential condiment used in Vietnamese cooking. The country consumes around 200 million liters of fish sauce every year. Annual sales of fish sauce in the country are worth VND7.2-7.5 trillion ($320-333 million), according to the General Statistics Office.

Last week, Vinastas issued a written apology to local consumers and fish sauce producers for spreading the false information.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said in late October said that they were considering suspending Vinastas’ operations after the organization “affected the business environment, causing damage to fish sauce producers.”

Mai Tien Dung, chairman of the government office, said Vinastas may have violated Vietnam’s Food Safety Law and Law on Protection of Consumer Rights.

To date, no penalty has been issued.

The Ministry of Information and Communications recently fined 50 media outlets for publishing articles about the Vinastas study and its findings, with the maximum penalty reaching VND200 million ($8,800).

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