Monday, September 3, 2012


Who does not know the human sufferings in Vietnam during the much hated War involving the United States and the Communists which ended eventually after the fleeing of Americans and their cohorts from Saigon in 1975. It is remarkable that this tiny country could recover from the trauma associated with the war and be counted as an economic power house on its own in such a short time. That the country had to start from the scratch to build a viable nation respected by the international community has not deterred it from taking up programs that could uplift the economic well being of its war battered people. It is amazing that Vietnam has one of the fastest growing economies in the world to day and it is the topmost exporter of Cashew nuts and Pepper while its rice exports are next only to the world leader Thailand. Recent news that Vietnam has put in place a rigorous food safety regime to protect its people can bode well for their future, domestically as well as internationally. Here is a take on this emerging development in Vietnam.  

"Under a newly-issued circular from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development which will take effect from September 3, all products and by-products from animals including heads, tails, legs, skin, grease and edible innards must be sold within eight hours at room temperature. Meat products stored from 0-5 Celsius degrees can be sold within 72 hours while by-products in the same conditions have 24 hours to be sold. The measures include a requirement for legal slaughter checking and quarantine stamps on products. A ban on the use of preservatives on raw products and by-products was also included. Butchers and all others involved in slaughtering and transport are required to have a certificate issued by a medical unit from district levels. Last month, there were 16 food poisoning cases nationwide affecting 531 people. Two deaths were reported. In total, some 2,400 people suffered food poisoning, including 16 deaths, in the first seven months of the year".

The new food regulation concerning the safety of products and by-products of meat industry speaks well of the intention of the country not to compromise on the health of its citizens. Contrast this with the situation obtaining in India where the meat industry, catering to domestic consumers, is literally in tatters with no serious monitoring or regulation of its activities. It is common to see carcasses hanging openly on road side vending kiosks, exposed totally to the dust and grime raised by the fast plying automobiles, three wheeler and two wheeler vehicles spewing toxic fumes copiously. Low temperature storage is rarely resorted to and the meat cuts offered must be one of the most contaminated foods in the world. Most of the thousands of slaughter houses run in civic areas are filthy and nauseating and how the consumers are putting up with such conditions is a mystery. Probably the prevalent practice of over cooking the meat once brought home, is thought to be a factor that is responsible for very few safety related episodes in India. Vietnam with less than 100 million population and a per capita income of hardly $ 3500 (PPP) has done exceedingly well in the area of food safety measured by any yardstick, leaving behind its giant fellow Asian countries like China and India.


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