The Department of Health in Quang Nam Province, central Vietnam has proposed fining Banh Mi Phuong, a well-known bakery in Hoi An, VND110.5 million (US$4,538) and suspending its operation for five months as over 300 customers suffered food poisoning after eating banh mi there earlier this month.
Mai Van Muoi, director of the department, said on Thursday that the department had submitted the proposal to provincial authorities for approval.
An investigation into the Banh Mi Phuong scandal showed that the eatery had committed several food safety violations.
In particular, Banh Mi Phuong violated regulations on food inspection and storage. It also had no sanitary waste collection system or storage facilities.
Authorities found that its food processing area and cooking tools failed to meet hygiene requirements.
An analysis of food samples taken from Banh Mi Phuong indicated that the stall had violated food safety regulations in its processing, supply, and sales processes. All may have played a role in the mass food poisoning incident.
During a working session with local authorities, Dang Ngoc Chau, a representative and member of the family that owns Banh Mi Phuong, said that he agreed to the results of the probe.
However, he proposed lighter sanctions be handed to the eatery, noting that his family had voluntarily closed the stall right after the food poisoning incident came to light in order to ease the consequences of its violations.
He reiterated that the business has already compensated the victims and shown remorse for the poisoning.
In its 34 years of operation, Banh Mi Phuong has never been found to violate food safety regulations, Chau said, adding that the incident has caused serious issues within his family.
The food poisoning incident began on September 11 when dozens of people showed symptoms of illness after eating banh mi, a Vietnamese baguette typically filled with cold meats, pâté, and vegetables, bought from the bakery.
They were rushed to different hospitals in Quang Nam and neighboring Da Nang City.
The number of victims was later announced at 313.
All of the victims had been discharged by Thursday last week.
The Hoi An administration suspended Banh Mi Phuong’s operations immediately following the incident and the local health center took food samples from the bakery for testing.
The bakery sold a total of 3,620 banh mi sandwiches on September 11 and 12 before its operations were suspended.
Banh Mi Phuong has issued a public apology to customers on the Facebook page of the bakery’s owner as well as the on the establishment’s fan page.