Vietnam's consumer group misled public with fish sauce quality claims, ministry confirms

By Nguyen Hoai   November 8, 2016 | 02:31 am PT
Vietnam's consumer group misled public with fish sauce quality claims, ministry confirms
The government has confirmed that fish sauce products in the country are safe. Photo by VnExpress
Vinastas's controversial study, which sparked a health scare last month, was flawed and illegally conducted, investigators have concluded.

The Vietnam Standards and Consumers Association, also known as Vinastas, deliberately misled the public with its study on fish sauce with inaccurate claims about dangerous levels of arsenic, the Ministry of Industry and Trade said in a new report.

The report, sent to the government on Monday, summed up findings from an investigation into how the study was conducted.

Released last month, Vinastas's study sparked a health scare across the country and prompted government agencies to take immediate action.

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

In its new report, the trade ministry once again tried to clear the cloud of fear and suspicion over fish sauce products.

The ministry noted that the study was sponsored by other organizations and lacked credibility and transparency. Vietnam does not allow sponsorship for scientific studies that can affect consumer rights.

Vinastas made a vague and misleading conclusion that 70 percent of 150 samples exceeded the Ministry of Health's maximum limit of one milligram of arsenic per liter, without making any distinction between organic and inorganic arsenic, according to the ministry.

The group violated the Law on Food Safety as it circulated false information about food safety, causing damage to production and businesses, the ministry concluded.

“The survey was conducted mainly by Vinastas’s chairman and a number of individuals, under no approval and supervision of the association’s authorities,” it said.

Vinastas is a non-governmental organization focusing on standardization and consumer protection issues.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade proposed Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc order Vinastas retract all of its false claims and punish those responsible.

The Ministry of Health earlier released its own findings, showing that samples of both traditionally and industrially produced fish sauce have safe levels of organic arsenic. It 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 last month sent a formal request to the government asking it to punish whomever gave the industry a bad name.

Fish sauce is an essential element of Vietnamese cuisine. The country consumes around 200 million liters of fish sauce worth between VND7.2-7.5 trillion ($320-333 million), according to the General Statistics Office.

Related news:

> Vietnam probes consumer group for controversial fish sauce quality claims

> Vietnam debunks arsenic fish sauce scare

> Organic arsenic in fish sauce safe for humans: experts

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