Food hygiene checks pave way for new law

A nationwide food hygiene check will be carried out by Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to prepare for the new Food Hygiene Law, which will come into effect on July 1.

The pilot check has been conducted on agricultural materials and products in the northern province of Thanh Hoa and southern province of Tien Giang.

Many factories, distribution chains and shops for fertilisers, pesticides, veterinary items, food for breeding farms and aquaculture production, forestry plants, fruit and vegetable processing, fish sauce production, slaughterhouses, have been checked. Read more of this post

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FDA reveals two new regulations to enforce food safety

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced two new regulation to help ensure food safety and security in the country. They are the first to be issued under the new authorities of the agency under the FDA Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA), which was passed in January and will take affect on 3 July.

The first regulation reinforces the FDA power to prevent potentially unsafe foods from entering the market and allows the seizure of food believed to have been produced under unsafe conditions, even without credible evidence. Read more of this post

Safe food chains established in HCM City

After three years co-operating with companies to develop safe food chains for essential items, the municipal health department has succeeded in establishing three – for eggs, pork and vegetables.

The safe food chains attest to strict adherence with food safety and hygiene regulations from the farm to the dining table, covering breeding, slaughtering, processing and distribution. Read more of this post

Food safety sees massive investment

A project to boost competition in animal husbandry and food safety in the agricultural sector kicked off in Hanoi on March 4th with an investment of US$ 79 million.

Of the investment, official development assistance (ODA) will contribute over $65 million while the Government will pay $3.4 million and the private sector over $10.37 million. Read more of this post

Vietnam: Enhance seafood safety and hygiene inspection

Mr. Phung Huu Hao, Deputy Director of National Fisheries Quality Assurance Department said this year they will enhance food safety and hygiene inspection fro seafood processing plants with higher frequency.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Department (MARD) proposed key provincial People’s Committee to strongly implement the measures to strengthen and control the local establishments of purchasing and preprocessing; Read more of this post

Pangasius farm meet hygiene standards

Leading exporters and breeders of the tra fish (pangasius) in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta are taking extreme care to conform to globally accepted health and hygiene standards, a Viet Nam News investigation has found.

 

Visits to several ponds and factories in Dong Thap and An Giang – two delta provinces that have the largest and most intensive tra fish farming areas – showed that farmers were complying strictly with the Global GAP or SQF 1000 standards.

The Global GAP (Good Agriculture Practices) standard requires seafood products to be produced in a manner that reduces detrimental environmental impacts including the use of chemicals. It also ensures a responsible approach to worker health, safety and welfare.

The SQF 1000 (Safe Quality Food) standard, meanwhile, requires clean ponds, the fish fry to be free of antibiotics, and the fish feed to be hygienic and free of banned antibiotics. It also requires that the fish has been cared for with strict disease protection measures and that details of all farming processes are recorded and maintained.

In Dong Thap Province, nine out of 11 companies that have the capacity to produce seafood for export have either filed applications to acquire the Global GAP certification or have been awarded the certification by Bureau Veritas.

Four of them received the Global GAP certification for their production process products this year, and the remaining five will complete filing their applications early in 2011.

“If the companies are in the process of filing their applications, it means that they have already started raising fish in compliance with the standard,” said Trinh Thi Be Ba, deputy head of the Aquaculture Division under the Dong Thap Department of Fisheries.

The nine companies have their own farming areas, and the total area devoted to raising under Global GAP standards is 308.4 hectares.

Besides, these companies also have co-operated with local farmers by providing them with quality fry, better breeding techniques and harvesting practices, according to Ba.

Breeding tra fish according to Global GAP standards has helped the province’s seafood sector produce export products that fetch prices that are 10 to 20 per cent higher, according to Le Hoang Vu, acting director of the Dong Thap Department of Fisheries.

An Giang Province has its own model – the An Giang Pure Pangasius Union (APPU) – to produce tra fish under the SQF 1000 or Global GAP standards. The model has many groups of farmers in the same geographical territory breed the fish for 17 exporters in the province.

Tran Anh Dung, director of the An Giang Department of Fisheries, said four leading export companies have been most successful with this model. They have 155ha of fish farms with an annual capacity of 130,000 tonnes a year, accounting for nearly 50 per cent of total production in the province.

Clean, hygienic

The Vinh Hoan Corporation and Hoang Long Seafood Company, two pioneers in breeding tra fish under Global GAP standards in Dong Thap Province, manage their farms very strictly.

During an unannounced visit by Viet Nam News to one of Vinh Hoan Corporation’s My Xuong farms, the farm managers stopped us at the gate for a five-minute check to ensure we were not carrying any substances that can be harmful to their fish like chemicals or paints.

They also requested a declaration from the guests about their health condition and history over the previous two days on the off chance that the farm could get infected with harmful bacteria from other places.

My Xuong, the 20ha farm on an islet on the Tien River (one of two major branches of the Mekong River) has 13 ponds to breed fish and two wastewater treatment ponds. The location of the ponds in the direction of the river flow facilitates hygienic maintenance.

The farm starts with a large pond followed by two parallel columns of six smaller ponds, and ends with two large horizontally placed ponds that collect wastewater from the 13 breeding ponds for a double-treatment arrangement.

An underground canal runs along the banks along the two columns of parallel ponds, drawing wastewater into the first of the horizontal pond for initial treatment. After this the wastewater goes through further treatment in the second pond before being released into the river.

The farm has six canteens and seven toilets around the farm to serve 42 staff and workers, ensuring no waste gets dumped into the fish ponds. “All solid waste items that we get from farming process is collected and transferred to a professional company contracted to treat waste,” said Ngo Van Quy, the farm’s manager.

At each crossroad of the banks linking the ponds, there were four rubbish bins placed to collect daily waste. “We have also placed bins in the canteens as well as the feed warehouses,” said Ngo Chi Cuong, the farm’s technical supervisor.

“We destroy every potential waste product that can harm the fish’s environment, even removing banana plants from the banks and planting papayas farther from the water’s edge that workers can benefit from.”

At the 48ha farm of Hoang Long Seafood Company in the province’s Tam Nong District, the company has allotted 20 per cent of the area for wastewater treatment. The farm has 30 breeding ponds located in a square format and a U-shape treatment canal covering the raising ponds. It also has a reserve canal for storing fresh water to feed the ponds through a system of pumps and concrete canals.

In An Giang, Vi?t Nam News also visited Nguy?n Minh Nh?’s 200ha farm with its man-made canal running along two columns of breeding ponds to draw wastewater for treatment. Nhi, former chairman of the province People’s Committee, is highly regarded by residents as a pioneer in setting up tra fish nurseries for breeding fry, instead of using wild fry from Cambodia, as was previously done.

Water, fish feed

The My Xuong farm in Dong Thap takes water for the ponds directly from the Tien River through tiny dams. The farm is entirely based on the river islet and it has tiny dams to take water from either sides.

“We take water when water levels on the river are high because of tidal pressure. Then we get the best quality of water for tra fish that doesn’t require any treatment,” said Cuong, the farm’s technician.

Be Ba of the Department of Fisheries confirmed this. “We have tested and found the water is good to raise fish without any treatment.”

Nhi’s farm in An Giang Province adopts a similar method, because it is also built on another islet on the Tien River.

According to the fisheries departments of both provinces, the islets were always unused, with no agricultural cultivation done on them.

In contrast, the farm belonging to the Hoang Long Seafood Company is built on a plot on the banks of a tributary to the Tien River. Here they treat water in the reserve canal with calcium carbonate and by planting water orchids (Eichhornia crassipes Solms).

None of the farms use wild fish or agricultural waste to feed the tra fish, according to the fisheries departments. In fact, many big companies in tra fish farming in Dong Thap and An Giang have their own feed production factories.

“Feed produced by the company meets all requirements set by the former Ministry of Fisheries; and the companies have the capacity to supply feed for other kinds of fish as well,” said Be Ba.

“Feeding the tra fish with wild fish was the method used in farms that raised tra fish in bamboo cages floating on the Tien River,” said Nhi who spared no effort to promote tra fish farming as the People’s Committee Chairman from 1991 to 2004. “But breeding fish in cages has reduced over the years because it yields low quality fish,” he said.

As in Dong Thap, the An Giang People’s Committee had also zoned areas for tra fish breeding farms, which led to a reduction in cage farming, Nhi added.

Treating sick fish

In case any of the ponds had fish with any disease, it would not be harvested, said Quy, manager of the My Xuong farm.

But for prevention purposes, antibiotics that are permitted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development would be used, Be Ba said. She said that each one of 11 districts in the province had aquaculture extension centres whose experts could act quickly to help farmers with any problem.

Planting water orchids is an effective wastewater treatment method, experts have found. “In case there are suspended substances in the water, calcium carbonate will be used,” said Trinh Thi Lan, a lecturer in environmental management for aquaculture at An Giang University. The calcium carbonate drags the substances to the bottom of the pond, and the mud is dredged after the surface water has been released into the river.

“Many studies have proved that the water orchid has the capacity to improve water quality from ponds and water treated thus can be released without causing harm to the environment,” Lan said.

A profusion of water orchids can be found in the farm run by the Vinh Hoan Corporation. Locals says that it also serves another purpose. The plant is used to produce handicraft products that are exported to Japan. — VNS

 

My Thanh Shrimp Association mobilized its members not to use Trifluralin

On 29th October 2010 My Thanh Shrimp Association held the QIII standing meeting to review the shrimp farming season in 2010 and plan for 2011. The meeting participant agreed not to use drug containing Trifuraline in shrimp farming.

Mr. Nguyen Van Nhiem, Chairman of Association asked its standing members for strengthening the mobilization for its members and shrimp farmers to raise their awareness about absolutely not using drugs containing Trifluralin to avoid damages caused by importers. Besides, in the future, the association will have many activities to better coordinate with the Shrimp Committee of VASEP to control the use of banned drugs, chemicals and antibiotics in aquaculture.

 

On 30th November 2010, My Thanh Shrimp Association organized a seminar with VASEP to reaffirm their will not to use Trifluralin in shrimp farming. My Thanh President and VASEP representative signed a MoU to collaborate on that issue.

During the seminar, key seafood exporters gave their vision of the development of the industry and remind to the 100 participants the importance of food safety for exporting food product. Qualasa Expertise was present and gave few words about the need for transparency in the value chain, transparency that encompass origin of inputs, but also history of the production and destination of the product.

 

Pangasius on the red list by WWF: the vietnamese response

Pangasius

There was no scientific evidence to justify naming the tra-fish on the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Red List, said Deputy Director of the Directorate of Fisheries, Pham Anh Tuan

Tuan disagreed with the fund’s 2010 seafood consumption report in which the fish is listed in several European countries and said that the announcement would cause many difficulties for Viet Nam’s tra raising industry and would adversely affect global consumer trends.

“The WWF’s information is insufficient as the fund used one sided and incorrect standards and scientific bases,” he said, adding that this would also impact on international trade relations.

He also said that the information was only released by the fund’s branches in European countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Norway and Denmark, not the global WWF.

This week, the Directorate of Fisheries would arrange a conference to clarify the problem with the WWF’s representative in Viet Nam, Tuan said.

Tra-fish were added to the Red List of Threatened Species due to the threat of pollution and a shortage of food.

Regarding this matter, the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) also said that no concrete evidence had been given to that effect.

In some EU countries such as Belgium and Germany, the fish had been put into different categories, according to the association.

The association also said that in the past year, tra-fish had become one of the most popular seafood products chosen by European consumers for family meals due to its safe quality and reasonable price.

VASEP confirmed that most processing and exporting companies in Viet Nam had adopted a system to ensure the quality of products “from farm to fork.” Some plants and fish breeding areas in Viet Nam had also been certified as Global GAP.

VASEP’s General Secretary Nguyen Huu Dung said Viet Nam’s catfish products were exported to over 120 countries and territories around the world, and met the stringent standards of the EU.

“VASEP has sent a letter to the head of the WWF to oppose its decision and invite representatives to visit Viet Nam and inspect tra-fish processing, preservative, and export processes,” Dung said, adding that the association was urging the WWF to give an explanation or correct the matter as soon as possible.

Chairman of Khanh Hoa’s Fisheries Association Vo Thien Lang said the addition of tra-fish to the WWF’s Red List would mean Viet Nam would lose one of three key export seafood products, which in turn, would affect adversely the Mekong Delta’s farming and processing industry.” — VNS

Truth behind propaganda campaign against Vietnamese Pangasius fish. By Mr. Dương Minh Trị seafood consultant in Vietnam

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

 

VASEP: Pangasius is 100% safe

Feeding at a Pangasius Farm, Mekong Delta

Feeding at a Pangasius Farm, Mekong Delta (Source: Qualasa Expertise)

This month, Vietnam’s pangasius industry has found itself on the defensive, countering attacks from critics such as Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson and the U.S.-based Catfish Farmers of America (CFA), who accuse farmers of raising fish in unsanitary conditions and processors of exploiting workers. Following Stevenson’s remarks to the European Parliament, the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) invited the politician to visit the country’s fish farms and processing plants, confident that witnessing the industry first-hand will change his perspective.

 

And, according to VASEP, Stevenson has accepted the invitation and will visit Vietnam next year.

In an exclusive interview with SeafoodSource, VASEP seeks to clear up the misperceptions surrounding Vietnam’s burgeoning pangasius industry.

Hedlund: Both Stevenson and the CFA have accused Vietnam’s pangasius industry of raising fish in unsanitary conditions. Stevenson went as far as to call the Mekong River “filthy.” Are their claims unfounded and unfair?
VASEP:
The claims made in both instances are not only unfair and unfounded, but they are also clearly based on outdated information. Today, 100 percent of our companies farm in ponds away from the Mekong River, not in the Mekong River itself. We are producing food; for that reason, our companies are committed to good farming and manufacturing practices. This means that it is our practice as an industry to monitor water quality on an ongoing, regular basis, both the incoming water and the effluent. In addition, because the river is a national treasure, the Mekong River Commission has taken strong measures to protect the resource.

Can Tho University and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership have conducted independent research and produced a substantial report [called] “Water Quality Monitoring in Striped Pangasius Farms in the Mekong River Delta.” In this research, they measured different physical and chemical parameters of river water, pond water and outlet water. They have concluded that the water used in catfish production systems — at inlets, culture ponds, and outlets — measures as being within acceptable ranges of national and international standards for aquaculture.

As an industry, Vietnam is working hard to improve not only its image abroad but also its practices. The leading companies that export to both the EU and U.S. markets meet or exceed many of the rigorous global standards — GlobalGAP for the farms and SQF 1000, USDC and BRC for processing plants. In addition, several leading exporters are now undergoing or preparing to undergo Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) audits for eventual certification.

What is VASEP and Vietnam’s pangasius industry doing to promote that pangasius is farmed in sanitary conditions and meets international aquaculture standards?
VASEP: The obvious answer is not enough. Culturally, the Vietnamese people tend to be very modest and do not like to advertise or brag about our products or practices. But the attacks on our industry and our companies have been harmful to the people for whom aquaculture has become a way out of poverty as well as on our reputation as a country. VASEP plans to take new measures to protect our reputation as a global producer of seafood — finfish and shrimp.

Stevenson and the CFA claim that they’re trying to protect consumers in the name of food safety. But critics say this is really a matter of international trade politics and protectionism, not food safety. Do you agree?
Everyone knows the catfish campaign is not about food safety; this is not a food-safety issue at all. While the U.S. catfish farmers want to protect their interests, the reality is that we are not the problem. They are limited by the cost of raw materials (as are all producers of farmed seafood) and nothing we are doing will change what they must charge for their products. A better strategy for them would be to create high-value products, not try to bash the competition.

As the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership just announced, there is no food-safety issue with pangasius from Vietnam. The issue is really a “red herring.” We are not aware of anyone reporting getting sick from eating the fish we produce. At the same time, we are aware that in the United States people died and got very sick from eating peanuts that came from the South, as well as eggs and other agricultural products. We believe one can then conclude that the Catfish Farmers are really more concerned about keeping us out of “their” market and not so concerned about food safety.

One more point to make about this: People have all kinds of ideas in their heads about our country and our people. What they need to know is that Vietnam can and will be a major player in the growing of food, and we embrace all of the technical assistance and new approaches to make us more efficient and more quality-focused. That is how we will build our brand and our strength in world markets.

How do you respond to accusations that Vietnam’s pangasius industry is exploiting workers?
Quite frankly, we believe these critics have no idea how many jobs our industry has created, nor do they understand the benefit that aquaculture is bringing to the people of Vietnam. They have jobs and an income, where they never had this before. It is clear that to become BAP-certified, for example, our companies will also have to comply with social justice audits, which should answer our critics once and for all.

Beyond the United States and United Kingdom, what markets show the strongest growth potential for Vietnamese pangasius?
That remains to be seen. In the past week, because of careless remarks made by individuals and groups who have never even visited Vietnam, the World Wildlife Fund has red-listed pangasius. This will have terrible consequences for our industry, which prides itself on constant improvement, on quality standards that are the most stringent in the world, and on bringing economic benefit to people and communities.

 

Source: SeafoodSouce

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