Safe Food For All
By Thanh Y
City dwellers are very concerned about the safety of the foods available on the market. The authorities responsible for food quality management must therefore employ drastic measures to cope with the worsening situation.
Working for a Japanese company in Binh Duong Province, Lan, a Saigonese dweller, rides her motorbike every week on a 200-km roundtrip to her parents’ house in Tien Giang Province. Aside from visiting her father and mother, Lan has another reason which has recently emerged. On the trip back home, she always carries with her bundles of food, mostly vegetables grown at her former residence.
In case of An, Lan’s colleague, her birthplace is too far for a regular visit. Fortunately, on the side of her house in Binh Thanh District is a plot of open land. Late in the afternoon, An and her husband dig and hoe tirelessly on the small plot which has now become a vegetable garden capable of providing her family with enough green food for the whole week. An’s gardening seems to have set a good example as some of their neighbors have also tried their best to supply themselves with home-grown vegetables. They have used all space available at home and in the neighborhood whether it is at the front or the rear of the houses, or on the terrace.
No longer rare exceptions, home-produced foods have become more popular in Hanoi and HCMC. This may be evidenced by the fact that enterprises which supply city dwellers with seeds, soil, gardening tools, fertilizers and the like are doing lucrative business.
The elderly in Hanoi and Saigon remember the scenes back in the 1980s during the time of the planned economy. At the time fresh foods were scarce, and urbanites had to rely heavily on foods produced by their relatives from the countryside. In cities, dwellers used unoccupied surface to grow vegetables. Keeping rooftop pigsties on apartment buildings in big cities, even the capital, were just routine chores.
But that was a time when the economy was underdeveloped. Things are completely different now. So what went wrong?
A recent study by the National Nutrition Institute shows that the per capita meat consumption in Vietnam has grown by 2.5 times over 20 years ago. Likewise, the volume of eggs and milk needed in the same period has snowballed by nine and two times, respectively. Obviously, urban consumption is higher than that in the countryside. Supplies are currently ample and anything can be available in the market and grocery stores. What city dwellers need are clean foods.
Saigonese and residents in other big cities are much concerned about the safety of the foods they are using. The number of cases reported on contaminated foods is rising steadily. Some imported foods are also unsafe, particularly those from China, not to mention faked foods.
To cope with the worsening situation, some city dwellers have produced their own foods. But this action is merely a stopgap measure. They have to buy foods from the market anyway.
Citizens are pressing for the authorities in charge of food safety to take urgent measures. The Law on Safe Food which came into force on July 1, 2011 was expected to better protect consumers from unsafe foods. The reality, however, shows a different picture.