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Vietnam association to be inspected over controversial fish sauce survey


The association behind a survey whose results have misled consumers into thinking that most fish sauce products in Vietnam are unsafe will be inspected, the latest in a series of actions the government has taken to handle the unfolding fish sauce safety crisis.

Vietnam Standards and Consumers Association (Vinastas), which is a not-for-profit organization, will have its operations and survey practices audited by a joint team, Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh said in a directive on Monday.

The inspectors will be representatives of industry and trade, health, home affairs, science and technology and public security ministries.

The inspection team has also been tasked with looking into the way Vinastas has provided information to the media, with a report to be completed by November 10, according to the fiat.

The inspection is also meant to verify whether Vinastas received any form of sponsorship to conduct the survey, and whether the funding affected the objectivity of its results.

The Vinastas survey has been widely criticized for deliberately not making clear the difference between organic and inorganic arsenic, resulting in public fear that the condiment is unsafe for consumption.

Arsenic exists in both organic and inorganic forms, but only the latter is toxic. The arsenic in fish sauce is organic, and Vietnam’s food watchdog sets no limit on the level of organic arsenic in fish sauce.

Vinastas is alleged to have had ‘special motivation’ to conduct the survey in the first and release the misleading results.

The Ministry of Health issued an official statement on Saturday, confirming that all of the fish sauce samples tested by the association were safe for use.

Following the official statement by the health ministry, Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper has had to remove five articles with similar misleading information about fish sauce.

The fish sauce scandal has also renewed debate on whether Vietnam should issue stricter food safety regulations, requiring manufacturers to name their products correctly and accurately.

While traditional fish sauce is made from the process of fish fermentation with salt and water, the condiment can also be made industrially by mixing fish essence with water and various chemicals.

Experts and industry insiders have demanded that only products made in the traditional way be called ‘fish sauce,’ and those that are in fact mixtures of chemicals should be named a ‘dipping sauce.’


Updated : 10/25/2016 11:29 GMT + 7

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