There are over 22,000 small and spontaneous slaughterhouses across Vietnam, so it is hard to trace the origin of pork in the market.
As a result, consumers still have to use pork with unclear origins.
Following an exposé of substandard vegetables labeled with Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) tags flooding supermarkets in Ho Chi Minh City, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters continued investigating the food origin traceability.
Hard to control slaughterhouses
Ngo Van Tien, residing in Binh Son District, Quang Ngai Province, raises more than 10,000 pigs. A company in Ho Chi Minh City provides his farm with breeds, techniques, and cattle-feed.
Tien just needs to build breeding facilities and employ staff.
“The company will buy mature pigs but I do not know how it puts stamps or traceability rings on pigs.”
In Dong Nai Province, a pig raising hub, many households which raise dozens of pigs each do not adopt the origin tracing process.
Hanh Huu, residing in Thong Nhat District, for example, raises tens of pigs but the pigs do not wear traceability rings.
“Our pigs are often sold to acquainted traders.”
Therefore, it is unnecessary to spend on traceability rings. Even if pigs wear traceability rings, it makes no sense as traders buy pigs from many households and send them to a slaughterhouse.
“Pigs with traceability rings are mixed with those with unclear origins,” Huu explained.
In Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City, contrary to large pig farms, it is unfeasible to ask households raising a small number of pigs to get involved in origin tracing programs.
N.V.C., who raises six pigs in An Nhon Tay Commune, said he just sells his pigs to an acquainted trader.
“My pigs have a specific origin but the information on traceability rings put on the pigs is decided by traders,” C. said.
A leader of the Ho Chi Minh City Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Medicine Division under the municipal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said besides the difficulties in controlling the origin of pigs of households, pig origin tracing software is imperfect.
The software fails to warn of or detect pigs without traceability rings.
“In addition, many livestock farms are small and smuggled slaughtering remains in place.
“Therefore, the pork origin tracing, which aims to ensure the pork quality, has yet to be done thoroughly.”
On the other hand, most pork in Ho Chi Minh City is shipped from other provinces. Therefore, despite the city’s efforts, residents in the city still have to use pork with unclear origins if food management agencies of other provinces fail to keep a close watch on the farming and slaughtering of pigs.
“With no or unclear information about products, Ho Chi Minh City will find it hard to trace the origin of the products,” the official said.
Nguyen Kim Doan, vice chairman of the Dong Nai Livestock Association, said due to the failure in controlling smuggled pig slaughterhouses, pork with unclear origins is still rampant at traditional wet markets and supermarkets.
The control of traders is also hard as traders buy pigs from farms and households. High-quality pigs with clear origins are mixed with those with unknown origins, so the quality of pork will depend on traders’ conscience and the origin tracing is unfeasible, Doan added.
Chaos outside wholesale markets
While traveling along a section of National Highway 22 near the Hoc Mon Wholesale Market in the district of the same name at 2:00 am, Tuoi Tre reporters found that pork with unknown origins was put up for sale on the sidewalks.
Pork was put on wooden tables or canvas.
On a road leading to the wholesale market, there are two to three pig slaughterhouses, which operate busily from 1:00 to 4:00 am every day. Pork from these slaughterhouses is distributed to traditional wet markets.
Contrary to the chaos outside the Hoc Mon Wholesale Market, the trade of pork inside the market is strictly controlled.
As soon as pork is transported to the market, a food safety management team will check its origin, quarantine certificates, stamps and traceability rings, and seals on doors of vehicles.
Tran Van Tuan, head of the Hoc Mon Wholesale Market’s food safety and environment management unit, said 272 trucks carry some 4,800 pigs or 360 tons of pork to the market per day. All vehicles from other provinces must show the quarantine certificates.
Meanwhile, all vehicles transporting pork to the market from slaughterhouses in Ho Chi Minh City must prove the origin of pork.
Furthermore, three members of the food safety management team are on watch every night to check vehicles entering the market and pork at stalls.
However, pork with unclear origins is still sent to the market.
|Pork with traceability rings are traded at the Binh Dien Wholesale Market in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
According to Nguyen Huu Hoai Phu, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the city consumes some 10,000 pigs per day
All of the pigs are slaughtered at centralized slaughterhouses.
In another development, Tuoi Tre reporters later learned about the Hoc Mon Wholesale Market’s food safety management team’s inspection of meat carried to the market.
When a vehicle with the number plate of 51D-563.71 entered the market, a food safety management official used a smartphone to scan the QR code on the doors of the vehicle.
The QR code showed the information of the slaughterhouse, which is under Hoc Mon Food Processing Company, the number of meat pieces on the vehicle—30, and the meat weight—1,233 kilograms.
The food safety management team concluded that the batch met the requirements.
After opening the vehicle’s doors, inspectors also scanned a QR code on a piece of pork and another code on a yellow ring on a pig’s leg. The received information matched with the above information.
The remaining 29 pieces of pork were not checked.
Tuan, head of the Hoc Mon Wholesale Market’s food safety and environment management unit, admitted that despite the strict control, poor-quality pork is still sent to the market.
For example, last month, a piece of pork was found to be not fresh while there was a traceability ring and a stamp showing that the pig was slaughtered in Long An Province.
The owner of the pork batch was later fined VND10 million (US$402.8) and forced to demolish the pork.
Hard to impose heavy penalties
Pham Khanh Phong Lan, head of the Ho Chi Minh City Food Safety Management Board, told Tuoi Tre that the city has been tracing the origin of pork, chicken, and eggs, and has achieved some success.
Most pork is traced from wholesale markets and supermarkets. All pigs at wholesale markets in the city wear traceability rings.
However, Lan admitted that the job still has shortcomings as the illegal slaughtering remains rife.
Moreover, pigs entering wholesale markets wear traceability rings but the origin of pork in traditional wet markets cannot be traced.
In addition, most pork supplied to the city is from other provinces. Pigs are mainly slaughtered in these provinces, so the city cannot control their origins.
It is worth noting that the pork origin tracing is not regulated by laws, so violators will not face severe penalties, Lan said, adding that she will propose the government include regulations on the tracing of the origin of food products in laws.
Illegal slaughtering detected in Dong Nai
The Dong Nai Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Medicine Division on Wednesday informed that it had detected and fined two unlicensed slaughterhouses in Trang Bom District.
At 1:50 am on the day, a delegation inspected a slaughterhouse owned by Nguyen Van Tuong in An Binh Hamlet, Trung Hoa Commune.
At the time, the facility was slaughtering three pigs measuring 270 kilograms on the floor with poor hygiene conditions.
At 3:00 am on the same day, the inspection delegation rushed into a slaughterhouse whose owner is Nguyen Van Hung in Thai Hoa Hamlet, Ho Nai 3 Commune while its staff were slaughtering three cows with a total weight of some 200 kilograms.
Both Tuong and Hung failed to show a slaughtering license. Therefore, the delegation handled nearly 500 kilograms of pork and beef and asked the two slaughterhouses’ owners to cease their violations.
Since early November, six unlicensed slaughterhouses have been detected and fined.