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Cheap, unsafe Chinese foods flood Ho Chi Minh City

Updated : Wed, September 14, 2011,11:30 AM (GMT+0700)

A plethora of news reports about their harmful quality has done nothing to dent the popularity of Chinese foods in Ho Chi Minh City, Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper reported.

City markets are flooded by foods imported from China and they are reportedly sold at prices that are even lower than back home, Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper reported.

Products like dried mushroom, almond, bamboo shoot, food additives, and confectionary are stored in sacks and cartons without any labels, packaging, expiry dates, or hygiene and food safety certificates.

Some traders say they look fresh indefinitely.

Nhung, a former trader in Binh Tay Market, said moldy mushroom, bamboo shoot, and seaweed could be restored to their original state by simply soaking them in saltwater and drying them.

Chinese confectionary at throwaway prices also fill markets in HCMC, threatening consumers’ health.

A large pack of candy costs just VND30,000 (US$1.5) while a yellowish soft drink is sold for a mere VND1,000 a bottle.

There are also products called “peppery stick,” “instant cuttlefish,” and “tiger meat,” without Vietnamese labels.

The National Institute for Testing Food Safety and Hygiene tested these strange foods but was unable to detect what they are made of.

The director of a HCMC-based food company said while high-quality products from China were licensed to be sold in domestic markets, dubious ones at dirt cheap prices came in over the borders.

“It means the foods do not undergo any quality or safety checks before they reach the consumer,” he warned.

However, wholesalers selling them have set up a large distribution chain in the city by transporting the products directly to the traders and providing them invoices and receipts, which help them avoid action by market authorities.

Tu Nhu Nguyet, who runs a shop selling imported confectionary, said some wholesalers had persuaded her to sell Chinese foods and promised to take care of the transportation and all necessary papers.

They also offered prices that were 30 percent cheaper than she could get for Vietnamese products, she said.

Dang Van Duc, head of the city’s Market Management Bureau, said it was difficult to curb the trading of low-quality Chinese foods since they were not illegal.

Though the foods at shops and markets had no packaging or labels, the traders always had receipts and invoices for them, he said.

“It is the job of food safety authorities to find out if the foods are harmful to health,” he added.

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