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Fish not entirely safe to eat in central Vietnam: health ministry

Wednesday, September 21, 2016, 11:21 GMT+7

An evaluation carried out by the Ministry of Health has revealed that deep-water seafood sourced from along Vietnam’s central coastline is not yet safe for consumption, following the mass fish deaths that occurred in the region earlier this year.

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long announced the test results of fish quality in central Vietnam during a press meeting on Tuesday morning, five months after the environmental disaster hit the region.

A large number of dead fish were washed ashore in the central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Thua Thien-Hue in early April.

In late June, it was concluded following a series of examinations by local and international scientists that wastewater of the Vietnamese steel subsidiary of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group was responsible for the environmental disaster.

In late August, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment concluded that most of the central waters were safe for swimming and aquaculture activities, with some exceptions.

According to Deputy Minister Long, significant research had been conducted based on a total of 1,040 fish samples collected from the local environment.

Findings of the study indicated that all samples of pelagic fish, namely tuna, mackerel, pompano, herring, and others, did not contain any poisonous substances.

However, 132 specimens of aquatic animals living near the bottom of the sea, including shrimp, crab, squid, and rays among others, were infected with phenol, a harmful chemical.

Given the test results, the health official concluded that all fish of the upper layer of the ocean are safe to eat.

He recommended that only seafood caught from the lower level of the sea not be consumed.

During an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Tuesday, an official from the Ministry of Health said that inspections would continue until all fish are deemed completely safe.

Experts from the Vietnam Food Safety Agency, National Institute for Food Control, and National Institute of Nutrition will collect more fish samples for further assessment of their phenol content, the official elaborated.

He also guaranteed that fish caught 20 nautical miles offshore were safe for consumption.

Update on aquaculture activities

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, seaways previously declared harmful are now good for fish farming, following the latest test results.

During the meeting, deputy environment minister Ha Cong Tuan issued some guidance on the operation of aquaculture activities for local residents.

Farmers should focus on raising their fish at the upper layer of the ocean in order to ensure safety and minimize losses, Tuan stated.

“Inspections will also be carried out at local fish farms and on fishing boats to ensure that all seafood is safe before being distributed and consumed,” he added.

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