Phu Quoc fish sauce makers fail to meet trademark standards
Updated : 10/08/2012 10:52 GMT + 7
No fish sauce manufacturers in the southwestern island of Phu Quoc have been able to meet the standards to have their products labeled “Phu Quoc fish sauce,” a brand name that was granted the geographical indication and protected as a trademark ten years ago.
In June 2001, Phu Quoc fish sauce, a specific variety of fish sauce produced from anchovy on Phu Quoc Island in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang, acquired the geographical indication (GI), which acts as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities.
The qualities include being made according to traditional methods, or enjoying a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.
In the same year, it was also named as a trademark by the Industrial Property Department, which means only registered manufacturers are allowed to use the name in Vietnam.
However, no fish sauce products have since been actually labeled as “Phu Quoc fish sauce,” as their products are below the standards required for the trademark. The market, however, is currently flooded by fish sauce products labeled only as “made in Phu Quoc.”
In 2008 the Kien Giang People’s Committee issued the GI management regulations, stipulating that “Phu Quoc fish sauce” is a product that is produced and bottled on Phu Quoc Island.
Nevertheless, more than 80 percent of the fish sauce currently available on the market is bottled in Ho Chi Minh City, though it is actually produced on the island, according to figures from the Phu Quoc Fish Sauce Association.
In 2001, there were only 68 fish sauce makers on Phu Quoc Island, producing a total of 5 million liters per year. Today those figures are 104 manufacturers and 30 million liters a year.
“Manufacturers on Phu Quoc sell the fish sauce to facilities and traders in the city by cans and barrels,” said Nguyen Van Giao, head of the association’s Supervising Committee.
The city-based facilities then bottle the fish sauce and label the products as “made in Phu Quoc,” but their quality is a mystery for consumers, he added.
Even those products that are bottled on the island fail to yield standardized outputs.
The supervising committee has recently taken samples from 15 manufacturers on Phu Quoc and found that 31 out of the 43 samples contained excessive amounts of histamine.
Phu Quoc fish sauce is required to contain a maximum amount of 200mg of histamine per liter, far stricter than the Vietnamese standard of 400mg per liter.
“This is the main cause for the lack of authentic “Phu Quoc fish sauce” over the last ten years, although 68 manufacturers have been licensed with the GI,” said Giao.
Another problem is that the anchovy, the main raw material used to produce the fish sauce, has been endangered by overfishing.
Some manufacturers who fail to catch the anchovy on their own have to buy them on the market, where high quality cannot be ensured.
“Many fishermen do not preserve the anchovy with salt until the fish is bloated, in order to increase the catch’s weight,” said Nguyen Tan Thanh, an anchovy supplier.
“The bloated fish will have reduced amount of protein, but increased histamine content,” he said.