Truth behind propaganda campaign against Vietnamese Pangasius fish. By Mr. Dương Minh Trị seafood consultant in Vietnam
December 2, 2010 20 Comments
Recently I’ve noticed an active campaign to promote negative propaganda about Pangasius (Basa, Swai, Striped Pangasius fillet) products of Vietnam. Certain parties are trying to condemn Vietnamese Pangasius products, one of the most tasty, nourishing and wholesome white meat farmed fish produced in the world. These people have used various means to make their claims seem legitimate, no matter how unethical they are, such as hiring secret crews to film biased and out-of-context footage that depicts unclear fragments of content. They then use this information to portray only negative aspects of the general image of Pangasius production in Vietnam.
Needless to say, we all know the culprits that stand behind this propaganda campaign. This is the same old story of an unfair attack generated by competitors from other countries that have conflicting interests.
Since the end of 90′s, thanks to great taste, consistent quality and reasonable pricing, the volume of Vietnamese Pangasius fillet (River Cobbler, Swai, Basa, etc) imported to US and E.U. markets has increased considerably. This is partially due to many restaurant chefs preferring to use Vietnamese Pangasius fillet after evaluation of quality.
The presence and acceptance of Viet Pangasius fillet products has angered some competitors. To fight against this, these competitors have been using mass media. They create propaganda materials including video footages, photos, and fragments of news from any available sources, no matter how unreliable and trustworthy these sources are, and use them to provide misinformation and distort the image of our Vietnamese Pangasius fillet products in the market place.
In November 2000, a delegation of about 20 visitors, including professors from the Auburn University (Alabama) and catfish raising and processing companies went on a fact-finding tour in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.
They made detailed surveys of the actual conditions of feeding and farming, for fish both in floating cages and inland ponds. They also visited various processing plants. At the conclusion of the tour, they praised the farming technology and equipment applied for fish breeding, feeding and farming; and found no grounds to lodge complaint about food safety and hygiene conditions throughout the processing cycle. At that time, if the Pangasius processing industry in Vietnam had problems, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) would have banned the import of our Pangasius products, but this was obviously not the case.
After this fact-finding tour, competitors found that they could no longer request the ban of Pangasius import because of issues on food safety or hygienic conditions. Instead, they started using anti-dumping protectionism. In 2003 they won the first battle when US Department of Commerce (DOC) imposed a very high anti-dumping duty rate upon Vietnamese Pangasius products imported into US.
Since then, these same competitors have constantly provided misinformation through their propaganda materials.
I wrote this letter to provide some information to clarify the truth behind these false accusations:
I live in Can Tho City, the center of the Mekong Delta area. Millions of delta inhabitants have used drinking water from Mekong river for thousands of years and we will continue to use water from this river for the future.
We can be confident of the water quality because the Mekong River water is closely observed and monitored by the Mekong River Commission (please refer to http://www.mrcmekong.org for more information). It is also monitored by MeREM (Mekong River Ecosystem Monitoring), a project that began in April 2004 with the financial support of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in Japan. The monitoring is implemented by core organizations (University of Tsukuba and National Institute for Environmental Studies), sub-organizations (Tohoku University and Yamanashi University), and the International Committee of MeREM composed of 10 members from Japan, P.R. China, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam (please refer to http://merem.kasetsart.org for more information).
Since 1999, the US, FDA, and E.U. veterinary authorities have received regular findings of such inspection reports on the quality of the water in aquaculture areas of Vietnam and the findings on the control of toxic residues in Pangasius fish raised in Vietnam. These reports show that the indicators of residue of heavy metals and fertilizers collected from 30 stations in the Mekong lower reaches are much lower than the international permissible levels. Justifiably, because this region is still under developed.
In addition, Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have long banned harmful fertilizers & pesticides.
The arguments that the Mekong River water is dirty, or that the river is one the most polluted rivers on the planet containing chemical and industrial waste are totally wrong.
Those making these accusations have clearly failed to provide any scientific proof to back up their assumptions. If there is such contamination, how could our Pangasius fillet product shipments have passed numerous tests made by US, FDA, and E.U. veterinary authorities at arrival ports?
Below are listed some overseas consumer’s comments, praising our fish:
Chef Bernie on March 22, 2010 said:
“We have been serving Pangasius for 6 years as a fried fish sandwich. It is one of our most popular dishes. I have never heard of anyone not feeling well after eating one. I get complements all the time that we have the best fish sandwich in the city.”
Brian Hanson on March 22, 2010 said in response to one of these propaganda articles:
“This article is ridiculous scare-mongering and utterly discredits. I eat River Cobbler regularly. I have never had any ill effects. I know at least a dozen other people who have eaten it with no ill effects. I stumbled upon this page through Google based on this I won’t bother reading any of their other reports.”
Writer’s notes: This article refers to the slandering propaganda posted on Internet. River Cobbler: another name of Vietnamese Pangasius used in US market several years ago.
Gary Scheldt on March 23, 2010 said:
“This is nothing more than propaganda from US and European industry protectionists who want you to purchase their more expensive product than the cheaper high quality imported fish. No sources, no scientific data, just outrageous claims which rely on people’s gullibility to believe them. Don’t be taken for a fool. As has been stated above, if Basa has been eaten by millions of people millions of times over the past 10 years where is the epidemic of poisoning? If it was dangerous why is it still being imported and passing ALL food quality and safety tests in all countries it is exported to?
Incidentally the Mekong river is snow melt from the Himalayas and is a fast flowing river it is probably less polluted that many US or European rivers. Don’t be played for a fool by people who want you to buy their more expensive product.
I hope above information helps to clarify the truth behind propaganda materials being presented to turn customers away from our Vietnamese Pangasius fish.”
What I say to these competitors of our Pangasius is Fair Play!
Dương Minh Trị