Vietnam's consumer group fires official over fish sauce survey scandal

By Anh Minh   April 15, 2017 | 11:04 am GMT+7
Vietnam's consumer group fires official over fish sauce survey scandal
A vendor stands next to her stand selling fish sauce and other condiments in Hanoi. Photo by AFP

The group has falsely concluded that local fish sauce had toxic arsenic levels, and he was part of the research team.

The Vietnamese consumer group behind a survey last year that falsely reported toxic arsenic levels in local fish sauce has sacked an executive held accountable for the scandal.

The Vietnam Standards and Consumers Association (Vinastas) said it has axed its deputy general secretary Vuong Ngoc Tuan for “wrongdoings” related to a survey about fish sauce’s arsenic levels last year.

Tuan was part of the team conducting the survey, and following its findings, he announced last October that nearly 70 percent of the 150 tested samples of traditional fish sauce on domestic markets had excess levels of arsenic.

The announcement ignited a widespread food scare and affected business of many producers in a country that uses fish sauce as an essential condiment and consumes around 200 million liters of the product annually.

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Vuong Ngoc Tuan has been fired as deputy secretary of Vinatas. Photo by VnExpress

Annual fish sauce sales in Vietnam are worth VND7.2-7.5 trillion ($320-330 million), according to government statistics.

The Vietnamese government quickly dismissed Vinastas findings. Authorities said the survey was misleading or incorrect because it failed to differentiate between highly toxic inorganic arsenic, and the less dangerous organic variety found commonly in seafood.

They also said the survey was not independent as it was sponsored by Hanoi-based communication and advertising firm T&A Ogilvy, a member of the UK-headquartered global advertising group Ogilvy and Mather.

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

The scandal has lead to a lot of punishment. As many as 50 news organizations were fined last November for carrying the findings, sparking public panic. Two editors of a major newspaper also had their press cards revoked.

Tuan’s dismissal followed a recent order from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, asking Vinastas to review the responsibility of individuals in the incident.

 
 
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