Saudi Arabia is the latest foreign market to issue warnings about many agricultural and food products shipped from Vietnam violating food hygiene and safety standards, while similar warnings from other key export markets of the Southeast Asian country were given in the first four months of this year.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade earlier this week issued a document asking Vietnamese exporters of agricultural and food products to strictly comply with food hygiene and safety requirements by Saudi Arabia after receiving a warning about standard violations from the West Asian country.
The ministry said on its website on Monday that it has repeatedly warned local exporters that the Saudi Food and Drug Authority has strengthened measures to check Vietnamese-made products to ensure that they meet food hygiene, safety and brand name regulations.
The warning was released after the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Hanoi informed the ministry that several shipments of agricultural and food products imported from Vietnam were forced to be returned to their country of origin, or warned by importers because of quality, hygiene and safety violations.
Many agricultural and food products from Vietnam, including black pepper, were contaminated with pesticide residues, the ministry said on its website.
In addition, some exported rice, black pepper and cashew nuts were not labeled properly and did not have necessary registered information such as color, length and broken rice percentage and information about the product’s origin and quantity in Arabic.
Meanwhile, some noodles and frozen shrimp violated regulations, as their net weight was not written in Arabic, and they were found containing fat of unknown origin and bacteria.
A Conformity Assessment Program has been implemented by Saudi Arabia, the Radio the Voice of Vietnam reported on Wednesday, adding that all imported products require a Certificate of Conformity to enable them to be cleared through Saudi Customs.
The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) last month asked local seafood exporters to keep an eye on the antibiotic residues in their exports following the refusal of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant import licenses for many frozen shrimp shipments from Vietnam and other countries in the first quarter of 2015.
In the first three months of this year, the FDA found 140 shipments of frozen shrimp containing high rates of antibiotic residues from India, Malaysia, China and Vietnam.
Of these, 96 shipments were imported from Malaysia, 25 from Vietnam, 13 from India, five from China, and one from Indonesia.
According to VASEP, the FDA said the exported shrimp was found to contain nitrofurantoin, an antibiotic used to treat urinary tract infections, and other veterinary drug residues.
The Vietnamese firms listed by the FDA over the veterinary drug residues found in their shipments include Ngoc Tri Seafood Joint Stock Co., Bac Lieu Fisheries Co. Ltd., and Hoang Phuong Seafood Factory.
As reported by the Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department, Vietnamese trade commissions in the EU, Japan and the United States received many warnings about seafood shipments containing antibiotic residues exceeding the permitted level in 2014.
Total shipments with chemicals and antibiotics to the EU market increased sevenfold from only seven shipments in 2013 to 51 in 2014.
In the U.S. market, frozen shrimp and catfish shipments given a warning also increased 1.6 times to 58 in the first three months of 2015.
In November 2014, South Korea notified that they would strengthen controls on the quality of catfish imported from Vietnam after authorities there found nitrofuran and derivatives in those exported items, according to the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI).
Meanwhile, as many as 16 Vietnamese exporters were warned by Japanese authorities for violating food safety, chemical residues and antibiotics regulations last year, the VCCI reported.
This year, Vietnam targets to export $32 billion worth of agricultural products, a tough target as export revenues in the first four months dropped 5.1 percent year on year to $8.5 billion, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.