The consultation workshop towards safer pork and vegetables in Vietnam was held on 27 July 2016 in Hanoi (photo credit: ILRI).
Responsiveness to citizens’ needs and demands is an indicator of good governance and public service. In Vietnam, the government and development partners including international organizations and research centres with expertise in food safety and risk management are responding to a growing public concern over food safety.
This year, the Vietnamese government and partners have been carrying out an assessment of food safety risks in the country. The ‘Food safety risk management in Vietnam: Challenges and opportunities’ study is led by the World Bank with technical support from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners. It started in January 2016 and will be completed at the end of August. ILRI has also asked for research support from Risk Taskforce, a project also supported by ILRI.
The study used information gathered from literature review, field visits, roundtable discussions and interview with experts from January to May 2016.
As part of this study, the World Bank and ILRI in collaboration with the Center for Public Health and Ecosystem Research (CENPHER)/Hanoi School of Public Health (HSPH) organized a workshop, on 27 July in Hanoi, to review, with government officials and other stakeholders, the findings and recommendations of the food safety risk management study.
Participants reviewed the role of domestic markets, particularly on pork and leafy vegetables supply in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s two largest cities. They acknowledged the study’s results on concerns over food safety, especially the finding that the burden of food-borne diseases caused by microbial hazards is far greater than that caused by chemicals, even though public food safety concerns are usually about chemicals in food. Other concerns discussed were weakness of food safety risk communication in the country, the need for better food safety management between ministries, and the need to improve capacity to implement risk-based approaches to food safety.
Recommendations towards safer pork and leafy vegetables
Hung Nguyen (second from left, speaking), food safety scientist and acting regional representative for ILRI East and Southeast Asia, was part of the research team that conducted the preliminary study (photo credit: CENPHER/HSPH).
Participants said two key considerations were key for improving food safety in the country. First, safer food needs to be supplied by the private sector, with the public sector providing an enabling environment for delivery of safe food. Second, for the long term, having a steady and reliable supply system that can ensure timely delivery of safer pork and leafy vegetables would make risks more manageable.
Improving risk communication to address public concerns was one of the most important recommendations from the meeting. Participants said improved risk communication would not only build up the trust of consumers on food safety but also raise the capacity of food safety stakeholders, in particular the media in communicating food safety issues accurately to avoid ‘saying more than what is true or causing panic’.
A shift from a ‘control-and-command’ approach to food safety, based on inspection and punishment, towards whole value chain approaches, industry-led programs and controlling key pathogens already on-farm were also proposed to reduce food safety risks. Participants also said that stakeholders should learn from best practices of safe food delivery in developed countries including cooperative strategies for compliance, prevention of incidents, and enforced self-regulation by industry.
Other recommendations given include institutional rearrangements to create clear and flexible policies on food safety outcomes, as well as a framework for managing performance.
Participants also called for improved food safety and risk data management, identifying technological solutions and management procedures to enable quick and efficient test of fresh products, and upgrading rather than replacing the informal food sector.
See a related article on ILRI’s food safety research in Vietnam.