State officials deliver conflicting conclusions about toxin in 30 tons of fish

By Hoang Tao, Phuong Trang   June 13, 2016 | 04:19 pm GMT+7
State officials deliver conflicting conclusions about toxin in 30 tons of fish
The batch of 30 tons of fish containing phenol. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Tao

After detecting 30 tons of fish containing a toxic substance in the coastal province of Quang Tri, two authorities gave conflicting results on whether the substance could be used or not.

On June 10, Quang Tri’s Department of Health announced that they found 30 tons of fish containing a toxic chemical named phenol at 0.037 milligram per kilogram. The batch was collected after the mass fish deaths struck Quang Tri in April.

The Department of Health, together with the Department of Agriculture, decided to seal the batch the next day. However, their opinions on the use of phenol in food are divided.

Vo Van Hung, director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said that there aren’t any regulations on using phenol in food.

“Some toxins can still be found in food but within permisible limits. Besides, seawater as well as cooking or freezing processes can create phenol,” Hung added.

In response, Tran Van Thanh, director of the Department of Health said that he’s not sure about the agriculture ministry's policies, but “in the health sector, phenol is a poison and it’s banned.”

Ho Sy Bien, head of the Food Administration under the department said: “Phenol is an extremely toxic substance. It’s not allowed in food packaging, let alone food.”

He added: “The amount of phenol in the batch isn’t particularly high, so it can’t cause food poisoning. However, it can accumulate in the body over time, affecting people's health in the long-term.”

To resolve the matter, the Department of Health, together with the Department of Science and Technology will take samples again and carry out independent tests before reaching the final conclusion.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health has also requested its Food Administration to examine the sample tests of fish from the batch for later comparison. 

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