After the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, it is the turn of the Fisheries Directorate and Vietnam Fishing Association to demand an explanation from the World Wide Fund for Nature for labeling Vietnamese pangasius unsafe.
Photo: Tuoi Tre
The two, maintaining the products are safe, called on the WWF to immediately publish its quality standards and the criteria for assessing tra catfish production in Vietnam, and “correct its mistake” of advising European consumers to look for alternative seafood.
“Placing tra in the ‘red list’ is totally unconvincing,” Pham Anh Tuan, deputy chief of the General Fisheries Directorate, said at a press briefing in Hanoi Wednesday, stressing it is erroneous to use environmental issues to make such a recommendation.
In Vietnam, feed for tra farms is supplied by prestigious companies that fully meet hygiene and safety standards, he pointed out.
The tra breeding process is stringently monitored, from the establishment of farms, water supply and treatment of wastewater, breeding, managing feed and quality of fry, through to the processing phase, he added.
The WWF’s Seafood Guides 2010-11 for the EU has moved the catfish from the yellow to red list in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Norway, and Denmark.
Nguyen Tu Cuong of the Vietnam Fishing Association urged the WWF to correct the wrong information it has already delivered and recall leaflets containing its recommendation that have already been sent to consumers.
“The WWF’s action flouted the principles of objectivity and openness the organization has pursued, blackened the name of Vietnamese tra, and caused harm to European consumers,” he said.
Authorities in 28 EU countries, the US, Russia, and ASEAN member countries have all acknowledged that Vietnamese aquatic produce is environmentally safe, he said.
Vietnamese aquaculture exports meet international quality standards like the SQF 1000 certification from the US-based Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Global Good Agricultural Practices (Global GAP) recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization, and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, which the US Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture have made mandatory for food.
Vietnamese pangasius is an omnivorous species that feeds on agricultural byproducts that are available in the Mekong Delta, the main catfish farming area, thus causing little damage to the ecological chain unlike carnivorous species.
Most Vietnamese catfish processors already have or are creating a closed production cycle from breeding to processing that includes technology to trace fish origin.
Tra a catfish native to the Mekong Delta is nutritionally rich and Vietnam accounts for more than 95 percent of its global supply.
It has exported 538,200 tons of the fish to 124 markets, including the US and the EU, for US$1.15 billion in the first 10 months of this year.
The EU was the biggest market, buying $423 worth million.