Testing practices of seafood exporters should be modified to meet standards and to improve the quality of products, said Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).

The association proposed to socialise testing activities in order to satisfy increasing demand and to maintain food safety, by moving the testing phase forward from the exported consignments to the raw material.

This step is necessary because existing food safety policies on seafood exports have resulted in a loss of time and money for exporters, said VASEP deputy general secretary Nguyen Hoai Nam.

Testing fees for finished-seafood products before export have almost doubled. Exporters must spend seven to 10 days procuring the samples for testing and implementing administrative procedures to control food safety.

Nam said the testing fee is on average between 5 million VND (238 USD) and 15 million VND (714 USD) for each container of the product. Seafood exporters must pay 1-4 billion VND (47,600-190,400 USD) each year for one testing company's services, even if they run the tests themselves.

Each year, the fisheries sector exports 1.2 million tonnes of seafood products. If 20 percent of that export volume is tested, the sector must spend a huge sum of money on testing activities, Nam said.

VASEP general secretary Truong Dinh Hoe said the National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department (Nafiqad) should study the food safety controls for seafood products used by the EU and the US. Not only do they represent key export markets for Vietnamese seafood products, but they also have strict policies that govern the choice of raw material, processing and export procedures and packaging standards, Hoe said.

Ensuring food safety from the early stages will be more efficient than tests on export consignments, which can only screen for certain strains of bacteria, he added./.