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Food company threatens to sue authorities over cancer-threat claims

By Thi Ha, Nguyet Trieu   May 31, 2016 | 03:15 pm GMT+7
Food company threatens to sue authorities over cancer-threat claims
The authority is checking packages of sausage produced by Viet Foods. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyet Trieu

A representative from the Vietnam Food Joint Stock Company (Viet Foods) said that her company is on the verge of bankruptcy after Hanoi’s Bureau of Market Management wrongly stated its products contained a carcinogen.

Huynh Vu Thi Minh Loan, deputy general director of Viet Foods, said that a batch of 2.2 tons of sausages was seized by the bureau for allegedly containing a substance that causes cancer. The company was fined and since then, has been going through a difficult time.

Viet Foods was forced to suspend operations for over a month and many customers returned their products. More than 100 workers quit their jobs, and the combined losses soared into billions of dong.

Viet Foods said that if the bureau does not remove the violation from its record and offer a public apology through the media, the company will take the bureau to court.

“We are suffering serious losses because management agencies spoke in such an irresponsible way and misled customers. Even though we have been vindicated we are still struggling to regain our market share,” Loan said.

She added that the incident has also affected other businesses in the food sector.

A representative from Ha Long Canned Food Company said that its sales have dropped sharply over the last month, even though their products have been tested and proven safe. 

Behn Meyer Company, which specializes in additives, said that their sales revenue has collapsed by 50 percent.

“The incident has killed Viet Foods and hit other companies. I think the authorities should have investigated the case more carefully before releasing that kind of damaging information,” said a representative from Behn Meyer.

On April 20, Team 14 under Hanoi’s Bureau of Market Management decided to fine Viet Foods and seize 2.2 tons of sausages they claimed contained sodium nitrate, a carcinogen.

Viet Foods responded by sending a letter to Hanoi’s Department of Food Safety, asking for the matter to be looked into.

After conducting a further investigation, the department said that the Ministry of Health allows food companies to use a certain amount of sodium nitrate, Viet Foods's products had not exceeded the regulated level.

Nguyen Thanh Danh, deputy head of the Bureau of Market Management in Binh Duong Province, where the company’s factory is located, said that at the time of the inspection, the factory met food safety requirements and had the necessary legal documents to operate.

“I think the bureau should compensate the company and apologize for its mistake. Media agencies should also be cautious about publishing information that is unfounded,” Danh said.

The sausages in question have been returned Viet Foods, but the bureau has yet to apologize or compensate the company.