Quality of handmade moon cakes should be tightened hinh anh 1Workers make mooncakes at Bao Phuong mooncake bakery in Tay Ho District, Hanoi. (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA) - With the Mid-Autumn festival just around the corner, mooncake markets are bustling offering a variety of tasty treats.

But despite so many to choose from, with many made by hand in houses and factories around the country, it is still difficult for customers to know just how hygienic the ingredients are.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a special time for Vietnamese – especially for children and families. Lanterns will light up the skies and of course, mooncakes will be in abundance.

Traditionally they are eaten on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month (which falls on September 13 this year), often together with tea. Many buy the cakes to offer to ancestors and give thanks to relatives and business partners.

But how safe are they?

Many people sell their cakes online, using social media sites like Facebook or Zalo, but there are fears they may not meet required standards.

Nguyen Lan Dung, 26, a preschool teacher in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan district, started making the cakes at home three years ago.

She found the ones available too sweet and wanted to add her own twist.

 “At first, I made 50 cakes for my family and my friends,” she said.

“Their feedback was positive, which encouraged me to make them for sale.”

Her prices may not have been that competitive, selling a single 150g cake for 50,000 VND, but she was confident in her ingredients.

Most of the materials she bought at nearby minimarts, Dung said, adding that she didn’t trust the quality of those unlicensed products.

Nguyen Dac Loc, deputy head of Hanoi market watch team, said households selling handmade moon cakes must abide by the regulations on quality, hygiene and food safety.

But right now, authorities find it difficult to make such checks on those being sold online.

According to Tran Ngoc Tu, head of Hanoi's Food Safety and Hygiene Division, handmade cakes are usually made on a small scale and not registered with authorised agencies and sold online, so it is difficult to control as well as tracing the origin.

Some establishments advertised their cakes as homemade, but in reality, they were imported from elsewhere.

Recently, more than 4,000 substandard cakes were seized at a facility in Hoang Mai district’s Yen So ward. They were labelled with Chinese characters, but the owners could not show documents to prove the product’s origin and quality.

To ensure the quality and safety of the products, the Market Watch General Department assigned the units to take samples of moon cakes sold to the public for tests.

The department will also keep an eye on homemade moon cakes, which are sold online and via orders.

Transport, production and trading of raw materials will also come under the spotlight to make sure everyone is selling quality cakes.

The departments will focus specifically on large-scale moon cake production businesses and strengthen inspection on the prices of the cakes and the recovery of expired products after the festival.

Over the past two months, inspectors from Hai Ba Trung district have punished 27 moon cake manufacturers and fines of nearly 65 million VND (2,800 USD). About 1,700 moon cakes with unknown origin have also been confiscated.

Tu suggested consumers should choose carefully to assure their safety.

They should buy from prestigious sellers with good reviews online. He also advised people to report information on substandard products or establishments who failed to secure food safety. — VNS/VNA