Agriculture minister apologizes after food safety comments

By Pham Huong, Toan Dao, Lam Le   April 4, 2016 | 10:54 pm GMT+7

Vietnam’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat made a public apology over the weekend after angering many people by claiming most food in Vietnam is safe.

On April 1, Phat told the National Assembly that “most of our food products are safe but people are unaware of that and think all food is unsafe”. His statement quickly generated outrage among local people, many of whom are concerned about food safety.

The minister explained on Sunday that due to limited time, he had to cut his speech, which resulted in a misunderstanding.

“I meant that given our data, the majority of our food products are safe, but it’s hard for people to distinguish safe food from the unsafe. It’s our [state management agencies] responsibility to help people differentiate,” said Phat. “I’m sorry for not clearly phrasing the statement and any misunderstanding it caused.”

Phat shared the public’s concern over food hygiene: “I also eat out in cheap places. When I visit my mother in hospital, I eat at the canteen. There’s a cancer patient in my family so I deeply understand the pain of families whose members have cancer.”

According to the minister, food safety and hygiene have been the number one priority for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for many years. In the last five months, the ministry has collected nearly six thousand food samples. Analysis showed that 5.17 percent of samples contained an excessive amount of plant protection drug residue, and 1.92 percent of the meat went beyond the permitted rate of antibiotics and banned chemicals.

The ministry has been running campaigns to prevent unhygienic food, but despite positive results, the progress remains slow. Authorities will take stronger action against unhygienic food this year, Phat said.

 
 
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