Tales of Vietnam’s food safety nightmares

May 3, 2024 | 09:03 pm PT
Staff members handling food with bare hands, using meat tongs for charcoal, and using saliva to open bags for containing sauces are some of the shocking food safety incidents reported by readers in Vietnam.

A reader, known as AKa 100/7, recounted witnessing the owner of a broken rice shop using meat tongs to handle coal and tend to the oven.

Aka said: "Usually, I didn't see how the owner handled grilling the meat. However, on that particular day, due to a surge in customers, they ran out of ribs, necessitating a wait. It was during this time that I observed the owner using meat tongs to transfer coal into the oven. To my dismay, the same tongs were then employed to poke and stir the coals while grilling. This unsanitary practice prompted me to decide to dine elsewhere in the future, despite uncertainty about finding a cleaner alternative. I find it perplexing that, when serving food and beverages, some fail to prioritize hygiene and care in their practices."

Reader tamduc said: "I used to frequent this establishment, but witnessing how the owner prepared takeaways for customers altered my dining habits. They used plastic bags to store herbs and sausages. Shockingly, they moistened their fingers by placing them in their mouth to facilitate opening the bags, then proceeded to blow air into the bags to inflate them for easier packing. This practice really raised my concerns about potential transmission of respiratory or infectious diseases. So I made the decision to stop dining there. I settled my bill and left, marking it as my final visit."

Reader Hoang Hiep shared that he confronted a shop owner after witnessing their poor food hygiene: "I once met the shop owner who stroked her hair with her hand and then picked up noodles for me without using gloves. I told her that I would not eat any more and left the shop."

Reader Kiet Nguyen Tuan commented: "Vietnamese food is delicious, but sometimes people make it in very dirty ways. Actually, to find a clean restaurant in Vietnam, the only way is probably to go to luxury restaurants and high-class hotels with professional chefs. But in return, those places will also have prices 4.5 times the normal price outside and the taste may not be suitable. If you decide to eat at popular restaurants with reasonable prices that suit your taste, you must determine that more than 90% of those restaurants are dirty. I am not exaggerating this at all. Most restaurant owners use the same hand to pick up food, hold customers' money, and hold a rag to wipe knives, chopping boards, and dishes for customers. Sometimes, when their back itches, or when a mosquito bites them, they scratch it and smack it with those hands too.

Reader quibao142 says: "Restaurants with hand-washing sinks in front for customers should continue to be promoted and replicated. People who eat need to maintain hygiene, so those who make food and bring food to customers need to maintain hygiene even more. The person who prepares the food must not touch the money, and the person who collects the money must not touch the food. Food and drink businesses need to go through safety and hygiene training classes, and we need someone to supervise, manage, and reward and punish restaurants that comply well and that do not."

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