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Government Official Claims Unsafe Food Is Major Disease Driver in Vietnam

You should probably put down your bột chiên before reading this: the vast majority of diseases in Vietnam are caused by unsafe food, and lawmakers are speaking out.

On Monday a brief released to the National Assembly, Vietnam’s legislative body, which revealed that over 20% of the 3 million businesses that make up the national food industry have committed safety violations. Food poisoning alone has killed a reported 164 people in the past five years, reports VnExpress.

Phung Quoc Hien, vice chairman of the assembly, warned that “unsafe food is giving Vietnamese people a long, slow death.” He went onto say that 60-70% of diseases in Vietnam are food-related.

This most recent incident adds fuel to an ongoing fire. In April of this year, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien dismissed a study linking unsafe food as a direct cause of cancer, claiming it was misleading.

Around the same time, Ho Chi Minh City established its first-ever Food Safety and Hygiene Management Board. Headed by Pham Khanh Phong Lan, the team of 500 experts set out to “strictly manage food safety-related issues from production, cultivation to processing and sale, towards making locals feel secure when using food.”

A survey conducted by the National Institute of Nutrition found that, on average, Vietnamese consume only 200 grams of vegetables a day, which is half of the recommended allowance. This is the same amount that was reported in 1985, when Vietnamese people had access to less fresh produce.

Of course, giving up greens won’t guarantee your safety. In 2015, local authorities confiscated chemical-laden pork that was masquerading as beef at a District 3 butcher shop. Unfortunately, it’s not only small businesses that are cutting corners. Last year, even Coca-Cola Vietnam was fined US$19,300 (VND433 million) for food safety violations.

With estimates suggesting that Vietnam might have the world’s highest cancer rate by 2020, the situation appears to be bleak indeed.

The tide does seems to be turning though, albeit slowly. In 2016 Vietnam’s largest dairy producer, Vinamilk, pledged to go organic. The local government also approved a five-year plan to secure 16,000 hectares of organic farmland by 2020.

[Photo via Crossing Travel]

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