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Official Gazette

Monday, September 23, 2019

Managing food safety risks

Updated: 10:53’ - 15/06/2011

Passed on June 17 this year, the Law on Food Safety (the Law) focuses on various issues to assure safety of food products and sets principles of risk-based management of foods from farms to dining tables. It does not regulate the manufacturing process of agricultural and forest products, plant varieties and animal breeds.

The Law explicitly articulates state policies on food safety, such as encouraging food producers and traders to renew technologies, expand production scale, produce high-quality and safe food products, supplement essential micronutrients in food, build brands and develop safe food supply systems. The State will also encourage and create favorable conditions for domestic and foreign organizations and individuals to take part in establishing standards, technical regulations and testing systems related to food safety.

Under the Law, food production and trading are conditional activities. Food producers and traders are responsible for safety of their food products.

Food safety requirements include conditions on food and those on food production and trading.

The conditions for ensuring food safety are specified in Chapter III, which is a completely new as compared to the 2003 Ordinance on Food Hygiene and Safety, which is currently in force. Food products in whatever forms are all subject to general requirements (Article 10), including compliance with relevant technical regulations and regulations on limits of pathogenous microorganisms, residues of plant protection drugs, veterinary drugs and heavy metals, pollutants and other substances in food which are harmful to consumers. In addition to general requirements, certain groups of food must satisfy specific requirements, such as those related to the use of food additives and support substances, food packaging, labeling and preservation. These groups of food include fresh and raw food, processed food, micronutrient-supplemented food, functional food, genetically modified food and radiation-preserved food, and food packings and containers.

As for food production and trading, the Law introduces specific requirements for each food product and each stage of food production and trading, such as fresh and raw food production and trading, conditions on processing and trading of processed food, and conditions on catering services.

 Chapter IV of the Law provides requirements for safety guarantee in street food vending activities. Unlike the Ordinance, the Law introduces separate regulations for small-scale production and trading establishments and assigns specialized ministries to set suitable and feasible requirements for each type of these establishments.

Chapter IV sets requirements on imported food, including food additives, food-processing support substances and food packings and containers, especially those imported for the first time into Vietnam for which the country has no relevant technical regulations.

To ensure the national prestige in international markets, the Law presents safety requirements on exported food. Competent state agencies will grant free sale, health, origin or other certificates for exported food at the request of importers.

Food advertising and labeling must comply with relevant laws. However, taking into account specific characteristics of food products, the Law stipulates that advertisement contents must be approved by competent agencies before being published. The Law also defines responsibilities of advertisement publishers and advertising service providers.

The Law stipulates general requirements on food labeling and makes specific provisions on special kinds of food, such as genetically modified food, functional food and radiation-preserved food.

Risk analysis a completely new provision as compared to the Ordinance. To manage food safety in the new situation and meet international integration requirements, Vietnam needs to carry out risk analysis activities, including risk assessment, management and communication. According to Article 49, subject to risk analysis for food safety are food at high risk of poisoning, food violating technical regulations on food safety as shown by sample inspection results, suspected polluting production and trading establishments, and food and food production and trading establishments subject to risk analysis to meet management requirements.

At the same time, Chapter VIII provide for food testing, prevention of and remedies for incidents related to food safety, tracking of food origin, and withdrawal and disposal of unsafe food.

In order to avoid overlapping state administration of food safety and ease the workload of concerned ministries, the Law assigns state administration duties based on food groups and commodities to the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Industry and Trade. It also specifies the responsibilities of People’s Committees of all levels for state administration of food safety. The Ministry of Health, which is answerable to the Government for state administration of food safety, will examine and inspect all stages in the food production and trading process when necessary.

Article 5 of the Law lists prohibited acts while Chapter II stipulates the rights and obligations of food producers, traders and consumers. Food traders that violate the law on food safety will be administratively handled or examined for penal liability. If causing damage, they must pay compensation and take remedies. The highest fine will be seven times the value of food involved in violation.

The Law will take effect on July 1 next year.-

 

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