Vietnam probes consumer group for controversial fish sauce quality claims

By Nguyen Hoai   October 24, 2016 | 05:18 am PT
Vietnam probes consumer group for controversial fish sauce quality claims
Shoppers walk past shelves of soy sauce, fish sauce, and cooking oil at a supermarket in Hanoi. Photo by Reuters/Kham
The group has come under fire from all sides.

The Vietnam Standards and Consumers Association, also known as Vinastas, is being investigated by the government after releasing a study about fish sauce that sparked a health scare across the country.

The study claimed that there are high, unsafe levels of arsenic concentrations in fish sauce. The government has dismissed such findings as misleading, saying organic arsenic in seafood is safe and must be distinguished from its inorganic form.

An investigation team, led by the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Vietnam Competition Authority, will look into the results of the study and how it was conducted.

Vinastas, funded by an anonymous donor to conduct the survey, said it was "not capable of carrying out a study on a larger scale," its vice chairman Vu Van Dien, was quoted by local media as saying last week.

Government inspectors will focus on whether or not Vinastas received money from a private company to conduct the survey and if there is any ulterior motive.

Vinastas claimed that the study tested 150 samples of fish sauce on the market and found nearly 70 percent of them “exceeded the Health Ministry’s maximum limit of one milligram of arsenic per liter."

Many experts then picked the results apart, saying that the limit of one milligram of arsenic per liter is intended to keep traces of inorganic arsenic in food safe.

They pointed out that, in all the samples with arsenic levels higher than the permissible level, Vinastas could only find traces of organic arsenic, which is naturally found in fish and other seafood and is considered to be non-toxic.

In the latest development, the Ministry of Health has released its own findings, showing that samples of both traditionally and industrially produced fish sauce have safe levels of organic arsenic.

The ministry also said that other metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium in the tested samples are all within the permitted levels.

Fish sauce manufacturing associations in Kien Giang, Binh Thuan and Hai Phong on Friday sent a formal request to the government asking it to punish whomever gave the industry a bad name.

Related news:

Organic arsenic in fish sauce safe for humans: experts

Vietnam debunks arsenic fish sauce scare

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