Lab tests on deep-water seafood sourced from along Vietnam’s central coastline have found almost no abnormal levels of contaminants or toxins, authorities reported on Monday.
The findings were announced by Deputy Minister of Health Truong Quoc Cuong at a meeting between government and provincial leaders.
The health ministry had been tasked with monitoring the safety of seafood in the four central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue since June last year, following mass fish deaths caused by pollutants from a Taiwanese steel plant, Formosa, in Ha Tinh.
“The Ministry of Health worked with international experts [to carry out the tests],” Cuong said at Monday’s meeting.
“As there are no known international standards on certain indicators, we have agreed to use seafood sourced from Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province, Hai Phong City and Khanh Hoa Province as control groups to determine the safety of the samples collected from the central coast.”
According to Cuong, the tests were carried out between June 2016 and March 2017.
“Test results have so far been similar,” Cuong said.
“The only exception is samples collected from Ha Tinh’s Ky Anh District, which showed slightly high levels of phenol. We are still working with scientists to confirm this. We will officially announce that the deep-water seafood sourced from the central coast is safe to eat as soon as samples return the same results for all controlled tests.”
Cuong added that animals living near the sea’s surface were already safe to eat, while cyanide levels across all samples had been found to be within safe limits.
“When it can be concluded that all indicators are at safe levels, the ministry will hold a press conference to let people know that seafood in central Vietnam is safe,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at Monday’s meeting. “This is important, as it concerns the livelihoods of the people.”
According to Nguyen Ngoc Thien, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the number of tourists to the four central Vietnamese provinces has already bounced back after taking a hit last year.
Tourist numbers in these provinces are currently at their highest levels in three years, Thien claimed.
A large number of dead fish were washed ashore in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Thua Thien-Hue in early April last year.
Two months later, it was concluded that wastewater from the Vietnamese steel subsidiary of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group was responsible for the disaster, with the firm eventually paying US$500 million in compensation.