Viet Nam
Management of food safety risks in Viet Nam: Challenges and Opportunities
The Government of Viet Nam, the World Bank in collaboration with development partners including relevant ministries, sectors and organizations jointly conducted an assessment of food safety hazards and proposed policy recommendations to strengthen the management of food safety risks in the country.

Foodborne diseases are usually due to infection or natural toxins and are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemicals that enter the body through the consumption of food.[1] Food safety is now a major public health problem in the world, especially in developing countries where the burden of foodborne diseases is high.[2] In this context, based on the recommendations of the Government of Viet Nam, the World Bank in collaboration with development partners including relevant ministries, sectors and organizations jointly conducted an assessment of food safety hazards and proposed policy recommendations to strengthen the management of food safety risks in the country.

On 27 March 2017, a workshop on "Management of Food Safety Risks in Viet Nam: Challenges and Opportunities" was held in Ha Noi, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam and representatives of Ministry of Health and the World Bank. A research report focusing on the value chains for pork and leafy vegetables showed that in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City, 80% of pork and 85% of vegetables are sold at traditional retail markets, with 76% of this pork being slaughtered in small facilities, which forms the majority of the value chain, with poor sanitation. According to the report, in 2014 and 2015 (according to incomplete statistics), there were 370 food poisoning incidents in Viet Nam, with more than 10,000 cases and 66 deaths. Up to 41% of these food poisoning cases were caused by microorganisms, followed by biological toxins (28%), and chemicals (4%). The remaining 26% cases had unidentified causes.

Research results illustrate that among the biological, chemical and physical hazards existing in food, biological hazards seem to cause the highest impact on human health. Accordingly, biological risk factors are likely to be the most common cause of foodborne zoonoses. A number of studies show that the level of exposure to biological hazards such as Salmonella in food in general and in pork in particular is relatively high (30% and 15-69% respectively). In addition, the use of growth stimulants and banned substances in livestock (for example Salbutamol), and the uncontrolled use of antibiotics, also increase the risk of leaving residues in food in concentrations that may be harmful to human health.

Though Viet Nam has developed a modern legal framework for food safety, effective implementation of this framework requires more focus on risk factors and evidences. Risk communication is the key to managing food safety crises or incidents and building consumers’ trust in the food supply chain. According to the recommendations of the report, managers should apply good practices in accordance with the lessons learnt from international experience and standards in food production and processing, as well as investing in upgrading infrastructure to ensure food safety. In addition, self-monitoring and control of common biological hazards are encouraged for use on farms and in production areas, rather than dependence on inspection and penalization. What is more, it is important to develop and operate a unified and comprehensive monitoring system for foodborne diseases.

According to Dr. Nguyen Viet Hung (Southeast Asia Representative of International Livestock Research Institute – ILRI as representative of the group of authors), in fact, no single measure can solve all food safety problems. However, experience from other countries has shown that combining learning and doing will gradually improve a country’s food safety levels. Speaking at the workshop, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said that Viet Nam’s approach to food safety is in the right direction. However, it is crucial to strengthen the implementation of some key mandates and tasks at present. Additionally, the Deputy Prime Minister also mentioned that the Government of Viet Nam will continue to coordinate with the World Bank to carry out more specific activities after widely disseminating the recommendations of this Report to the society./.