Authorities have launched market inspections in four major cities to look for a dangerous extract that changes the appearance and taste of pork into beef.
This bottle contains a kind of additive that can change the taste of pork into beef. It is sold for VND350,000 (USD15) in a shop in Hang Buom Street in Ha Noi. — VNS Photo Doan Tung
The inspections follow reports that the additive has been found in many cities in China and that long term use can lead to poisoning and even cancer.
Nguyen Cong Khan, head of the Food Hygiene and Safety Department under the Ministry of Health, said last week the department was focusing on Hanoi, Haiphong, Danang, and HCM City.
It has instructed local inspectors to take random samples of additives in the market to carry out tests.
"The results will be broadcast widely in the media," Khan said.
Similar additives are reported to have been found in some markets in Hanoi, such as Hom market in Hai Ba Trung District and retail shops in Hang Buom street in Hoan Kiem District.
"You just need two to three drops of this liquid additive to make one kilogramme of pork taste like beef," the owner of an additive shop in Hang Buom street said.
"Owners of restaurants are my major customers," she said, adding that each kilogramme of additive cost VND350,000 (USD17.50).
The products have foreign labels, but have yet received no food safety and hygiene certification from authorised agencies.
According to China's Anhui Daily Press Group, a kidney specialist in Anhui Province warned last week that consuming the beef extract for a long period of time might lead to chronic poisoning, deformities or cancer.
Khan said the department was already collaborating with relevant local agencies to carry out regular inspections of food additives nationwide. It has, since early this year, found and destroyed several additives for not meeting food and hygiene stipulations.
He said the inspections had to be carried out regularly on the large number of food additives, estimated at 7,000, being sold in the market.
There have been several reports about rare additives and foodstuffs, including fake eggs, Khan said, adding that these had not so far been found in the country.
"The department will also focus on inspecting the quality of processed food and food using additives that people are worried about the most," Khan added.