Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has requested relevant ministries and localities to intensify food safety inspections, from the communal level up, especially when the Lunar New Year (Tet) festival, the country’s largest festive season, is approaching.

Chairing a teleconference with ministries, sectors and localities on the task in Hanoi on January 2, Dam stressed that ensuring food hygiene and safety is extremely important given that it is closely associated with not only processing and distribution but also consumers’ habits and health issues.

To support the work, ministries and sectors need to continue building and refining legal frameworks and documents to enforce the Law on Food Safety, Dam said, reminding them to speed up communications campaigns to further raise people’s awareness of observing legal regulations on food hygiene and safety.

Violations of food safety regulations must be handled stringently in line with the law, he stressed.

The Interdisciplinary Steering Committee on Food Safety reported that in 2013, the health sector worked closely with other sectors in overseeing the production and trade of food, helping reduce the percentage of violating food production units from 21.1 percent in 2012 to 20.1 percent in 2013.

Many food safety violations have been brought to light and widely reported in the media. Trade in livestock and livestock products illegally imported into the country was prevented and food poisoning cases were kept under control.

Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien reported to participants that her ministry will submit to the Government a decree on sanctions against food safety violators, proposing tougher measures, including imposing fines seven times higher than the current level.

At present, the Health Ministry is tabling a project to build a food hygiene and safety testing centre and a rapid warning system to facilitate localities’ food testing capacity.-VNA