Visitors at a pastry stall at the Vietfood & Beverage - Propack international exhibition held in Hanoi in early November (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA) - To tackle rampant food safety issues in Vietnam, a national information database with real-time updates will be set up, according to Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam.

Deputy PM Dam said the database must be as user-friendly as possible so that “any farmer or restaurant can post information regarding their products on the database with little effort.”

“Meanwhile, consumers will be able to easily share information on products or producers that violate food safety regulations. In the future, consumers could just open their phone to know the locations of trusted restaurants near them, or trace the origins of the vegetables they want to buy,” Deputy PM Dam said.

In a meeting held on November 12 by the Central Steering Committee on Food Safety and Hygiene, the Deputy PM said that currently, information and statistics related to food safety management – including the number of poisoning cases, the number of inspections conducted and their results, a list of registered food products or food safety-compliant businesses, etc. – are collected and documented by paper-based administration methods, causing delays and making for outdated data in reports.

Citing recommendations made in the World Bank’s study on food safety in Vietnam, which urges the Government to develop a risk-based system using the principles of risk assessment, risk management and risk communication, Deputy PM Dam said that it is necessary to set up a food safety information database to make public all factors involved in production, processing, transportation and consumption of food.

The centralised database would issue a single ID for each food production and trading business and household, ensuring that each producer and trader would stay under the supervision of one State agency.

The database has already entered the nascent development stage and pilot operation is being carried out at the Food Safety Administration (Ministry of Health) and selected localities.

The challenges to food safety communications in Vietnam are due to a fragmented food production system with the involvement of millions of small-holding farmers and producers, low awareness on food safety issues, inadequate collaboration between ministries and agencies, and failure to follow safe practices in production and processing, among others.

At the meeting, representatives of concerned agencies have agreed to use and contribute data to the national database, instead of setting up their own system.

Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Bui The Duy said to attract public engagement in enlarging the database, the starting information size must be sufficient for start-ups to develop apps for consumers and other users.

“The more the public use the apps to look up food safety information or input related information, the larger and more informative the database would be, which facilitates and eases monitoring and supervision efforts,” Duy said.

According to the World Bank, the leading cause for food-related diseases in Vietnam is bacterial contamination, but high use of chemicals in agricultural production such as antibiotics, pesticides and inorganic fertilisers are also a problem.-VNS/VNA