Ministry to ensure food safety, strict punishments during Tet hinh anh 1MARD Chief Inspector Nguyen Van Viet spoke to Tin Tuc (News) about the issue. (Source: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – The Ministry of Agiculture and Rural Development (MARD) plans to intensify unannounced food safety inspections. The ministry's Chief Inspector Nguyen Van Viet spoke to Tin Tuc (News) about the issue.

* What is the focus of the ministry's agriculture inspections before and after Tet holidays?

To have safe products for consumption in local markets, the ministry has set targets to improve farmers' awareness and knowledge on the importance of ensuring food safety at all steps of their production process.

As a way to intensify its food safety inspections, the ministry will focus on taking samples from agriculture products for examination and will issue safety confirmations before allowing them to be consumed on the market.

From now until Tet, it will increase the number of unannounced inspections on many food factories nationwide.

It has been mobilising all of its food safety management forces including the departments of veterinary and quality control in cooperation with units under the Ministry of Health to undertake intersectoral assessments on agriculture enterprises in all cities and provinces.

The MARD also guided authorities to grant consuming licences to food producers that had been found to be ensuring hygienic and safe conditions to consume in nationwide markets by providing logos to stamp on their products.

It ordered those authorities to be held responsible for the quality of the products for which they had granted consuming licences.

Domestic and imported instant food products including pork pies, grilled chopped meat and vegetables will be a top priority for inspection from now until Tet.

A week ago, the MARD cooperated with Ministry of Public Security to inspect 20 animal feeding factories in six provinces with a total of 126 samples collected for examination.

The ministry said it would make an analysis as soon as possible on the local usage of banned substances in animal feeding products based on sample examination results.

* Despite the fact that a large number of food hygiene and safety violations have been discovered and solved recently, public opinion argues that punishments are not strict enough to prevent them. What is your view?

It is right to say punishments are not strict enough to deter or prevent the violations.

An enterprise recently had to pay a fine worth 470 million VND (21,000 USD) for repeatedly violating the food safety rules. This proved that the enterprise was not aware of the fine, thus it should bear a more serious punishment including a temporary consumption suspension or destruction of their products.

The MARD has allowed inspectors to give strict punishments including a withdrawal of consuming licences from deliberate or repeat violators.

Violators should know that they may suffer from unaccountable damages if they receive a punishment that forces them to close their production factories for two months, along with their names or trading brands publicised in domestic markets.

Moreover, Clause 316 of the new Criminal Code recently approved by the National Assembly stipulates that individuals, organisations or enterprises that use banned substances in food production are considered criminals. This was a big adjustment compared to the previous Criminal Law's Clause 155, which made it difficult to prove this kind of violation was a criminal case. Thus, in the past, very few enterprises using banned substances in production went to trial.

I hope the new Criminal Code will be effective in July this year, which will serve as a stronger deterrent of these violations.

* What will the MARD do this year to minimise the risks caused by unhygienic and unsafe food and help local consumers access hygienic and safe products?

The MARD has recognised inspections on agricultural material sources as its key goal this year and has authorised 63 provinces and cities to undertake continuous sudden inspections in localities.

So far, about 59 provinces and cities have sent their reports to the ministry with a total of 10,165 violations, mostly pertaining to fertilisers and animal feeding production.

As this year is the Year of Food Safety, the MARD has vowed to continue the implementation of its plans to improve farmers' and agriculture producers' awareness on the VietGAP and GlobalGAO standards.-VNA