A week after a consumer protection association shocked the public by revealing that most of the common Vietnamese rice noodle products available in Ho Chi Minh City are contaminated, two municipal departments still insist that they do not recognize such findings.
The city’s departments of health and industry and trade held a meeting on Monday, but no official conclusion on whether the rice noodle are toxic or not was released.
Between June 15 and 25, the Center for Study and Consultation on Consumerism (CESCON) collected 30 samples of six types of Vietnamese rice noodle, including pho, bun, banh canh, banh hoi, banh cuon, and banh uot for toxic tests, and announced on July 22 that 80 percent of the samples are tainted with tinopal, a banned and cancer-causing chemical.
Tinopal is an industrial chemical, and thus not included in the list of allowed food additives by the Ministry of Health, the association said.
The chemical is in fact an optical brightener used for papermaking, detergents and cleaners, regular and long consumption of which can do harm to consumers’ digestion, and even cause kidney and liver failures as well as cancers.
The city’s departments said CESCON had failed to follow the appropriate procedure in collecting the samples, testing them, and releasing the results.
The departments thus do not recognize the toxic findings, even when they do not have their own survey and test results.
Asked to give a comment on CESCON’s findings, Le Ngoc Dao, deputy director of the Department of Industry and Trade said at the meeting that she would “not talk anything about those results.”
Dao added, “I don’t think we will do anything to handle this. It’s the right of any association to conduct surveys like such, but they should follow some stipulations when it comes to figuring out and publicizing the final conclusion.”
Nguyen Tan Binh, director of the health department, also said CESCON should have reported to the department when it found the shocking results before making it public.
“Once the department receives the report, it will conduct some required additional steps to make the results completely legal and officially announce it,” Binh elaborated.
The industry and trade department will conduct checks on and collect samples from the rice noodle manufacturers and distributors citywide from now to August 10, according to Dao.
“These samples will be the basis for the official conclusion on this contamination case,” she said.