There is a perfect meal to describe Vietnam’s food safety: a cup of fake coffee, engine oil-doused vegetables with pork from sedative-injected pigs, and a side of chemically ripened durian.
This scary three-course meal, once a popular joke among Vietnamese social media users, is becoming increasingly less tongue-in-cheek given the almost daily food safety scares reported by the local media.
The situation is so alarming that Tran Ngoc Vinh, a former delegate of the lawmaking National Assembly, once said that “the path from the stomach to the graveyard has never been as short and easy as it is today.”
'Vietnamese killing Vietnamese’
China’s reputation for flooding Vietnam with low-quality goods has made them the historical scapegoat for fake and unsafe products on the Vietnamese market.
However, the facts show that Vietnam can blame no one but itself for many of the food-related issues plaguing the country.
The local media is rife with reports of Vietnamese growing vegetables with chemicals, injecting pigs with sedatives before slaughter, dousing bananas and other fruits with artificial ripening substances, making alcohol with industrial alcohol and plain water, and collecting rotten animal organs to sell to restaurants and eateries.
To say ‘the Vietnamese are killing the Vietnamese’ is no exaggeration.
Many would not dare to eat the food in Vietnam if they knew what went on “behind the scenes.”
Hardly does a week pass without an exposé on the prevalence of dirty food in the Southeast Asian country.
Even more terrifying is the fact that this same food has made it a popular attraction for unsuspecting tourists.
Those in the dirty food industry have proven their willingness to do whatever it takes to turn a profit, regardless of the dangers they bring upon those unlucky enough to purchase their products.
It is difficult to fathom the thought process behind selling rotten and decomposing animal organs to restaurants who plan to transform the inedible filthy items into ‘delicious’ dishes to serve their countrymen. Unfortunately, this ‘business’ is not uncommon in Vietnam.
On June 10, for example, a truck en route from the central city of Hue to the northern province of Lang Son was caught carrying 4.5 metric tons of rotten offal.
Less than two weeks earlier, on May 29, traffic police in the north-central province of Ha Tinh found nearly three metric tons of inedible organs of dubious origin after stopping a tractor trailer for a routine check.
One of the biggest discoveries of rotten food ever detected in Vietnam occurred in November 2015, when more than six metric tons of foul-smelling animal organs were found on a truck bound for Hanoi from Ho Chi Minh City.
It’s an evil
Nguyen Phuoc Trung, director of the Ho Chi Minh City agriculture department, said the act of injecting pigs with sedatives before slaughter must be considered illegal.
“We should have zero tolerance for anyone who abets this crime,” Trung said at a meeting on October 3.
Trung was referring to a scandal involving Xuyen A, the biggest pig slaughterhouse in Ho Chi Minh City and a supplier of pork to nearby provinces, injecting its livestock with sedatives to achieve a better taste and color.
Sharing Trung’s view, Pham Trong Nhan, a representative to the lawmaking National Assembly from Binh Duong Province, agreed that the production and sale of dirty food must be considered a crime.
Speaking at a meeting with other lawmakers in June, Nhan called for swift and tough action against those who sell dirty food, declaring that “seeing a crime but neither stopping nor denouncing it is equal to abetting the evil.”
Nhan also called on those involved in the ‘dirty food industry’ to follow their conscience and ethics and stop poisoning their compatriots.
“Please live up to your responsibility to this country and stop your dishonest and fraudulent businesses,” he said.
At the same National Assembly meeting, Nhan shared that every year over 70,000 people die from cancer, a significant proportion of which is due to unsafe food.
“Is it an overstatement to say that we are poisoning ourselves [with dirty food]?” he questioned.
Nhan said “patience has run out” for those who make and distribute dirty food in Vietnam, and it is time they “received the strictest penalty from the law.”
In fact, crackdowns on dirty food in Vietnam have not been as effective as expected.