Ho Chi Minh City Health Department’s former chief inspector will be assigned to a new position after two years’ suspension from his post for covering up the presence of carcinogens in many soy sauce products.
Nguyen Duc An has received a warning instead of being sacked, according to a department decision announced on Tuesday.
Le Van Viet, head of Human Resources Office under the department, said in September 2007 An was dismissed for not reporting to the authorities that many brands of soy sauce were found to contain high levels of carcinogen 3-MCPD during food hygiene and safety inspections done in 2005.
An was also criticized for not dealing strictly with the violations, opting to impose fines and asking the offenders to recycle the products. Viet said this allowed companies to produce the carcinogens-carrying soy sauce again.
An had lodged a complaint with the HCMC government, which announced last September it would uphold the dismissal.
He then appealed to the Ministry of Interior, which asked the HCMC administration to reconsider the action taken against An.
The ministry said the city had flouted regulations by not setting up a panel to review An’s dismissal. The ministry also found there were not enough grounds to penalize An for dereliction of duty.
Health regulations, in fact, then said officials with authority can deal with cases of products harmful to human health by requiring makers to “reproduce” or “destroy” the products, according to Viet.
In January the city administration revoked the decision to sack An.
In May 2007, the city Health Department blacklisted 10 soy sauce makers whose products contained 3-MCPD.
But media investigations later revealed the department had in fact been aware of the problem since 2001 and had discovered at least 20 tainted soy sauce brands in 2005 and 2006 that were never publicized.
The press reports infuriated the public, prompting the HCMC Inspectorate to step into action.
Nguyen The Dung, then director of the Health Department, was transferred to another job for allowing his deputy, Le Truong Giang, to postpone informing the public about toxic substances in soy sauce. Giang was reprimanded by the city government.
Soy sauce makers explained the presence of the carcinogens was a result of chemical reactions between ingredients used to boost protein content to stipulated levels.