September 19, 2008


Vietnam to tighten seafood quality control

Vietnam will tighten quality control of catfish exports due to complaints lodged by importers.


Luong Le Phuong, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, admitted on Wednesday (September 17, 2008) that sometimes they grant certificates to seafood exporters too easily.


His confession came during a conference on seafood exports' quality organised by the agriculture ministry and the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors (VASEP). The conference was organised in response to an alarming number of complaints from importers about the safety and sanitary quality of Vietnamese seafood products.


Vietnam received about 110 complaints in the first eight months of 2008, including two catfish shipments to the EU and 27 to Russia, according to the National Agro-Forestry and Fisheries Quality Assurance Department (Nafiqaved).


Nafiqaved deputy head Tran Bich Nga said Russia had complained about the quality of Vietnamese catfish for years and bacteria contamination, mostly listeria monocytogenes, as well as high water content have been found in Vietnam's catfish exports to Russia.


Nafiqaved said eight of Vietnam's 38 seafood exporters to Russia had been involved in 33 listeria and high water content cases, and Russia had suspended six Vietnamese exporters in July this year for repeated violation of its quality standards.


Russia has warned that it may ban all Vietnamese seafood if Vietnam fails to improve its seafood quality.


"From now on, only exporters who meet Russian quality and water content criteria will be granted certificates to export to that market," Phuong said, adding that some local exporters disregarded the laws by applying for export certificates before providing samples for quality testing and even resorted to bribes frequently to procure the certificates.


Phuong said export certificates will now only be issued after inspectors take samples directly at the facilities and that they will conduct surprise inspections at any suspected facilities.


While Russia complained about listeria contamination and high water content, the EU complained about low protein content.


Phuong has asked concerning agencies to investigate the causes.


Phuong said he had instructed responsible agencies to investigate the causes.

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