“The time to comply with new regulations is now. Food-safety regulation non-compliance is the largest barrier to entry for Vietnamese firms,” said Herb Cochran, senior director of Trade Facilitation and Special Projects at AmCham Việt Nam in HCM City.
To integrate into the global market, Vietnamese businesses must learn more about regulations and improve quality to meet these new standards, he said.
Vũ Kim Hạnh, chairwoman of the High Quality Vietnamese Goods Business Association, said that even though Việt Nam had integrated deeply into the global economy, local enterprises still lacked knowledge about the US’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA) and European Food Safety Authority regulations.
“Ensuring food safety and hygiene will open up many opportunities for businesses at home as well as strict markets like the US, the EU, and Japan,” she said.
“Given that most countries are strengthening protection barriers, Vietnamese products will have access to huge markets if they meet international standards and regulations,” she told Việt Nam News.
Chu Ngọc Anh, minister of Science and Technology, said that Vietnamese High-Quality Good International Standards for the food industry had been issued by the High Quality Vietnamese Goods Business Association.
“It’s necessary to promulgate this set of standards. It provides food companies with a clear direction in developing their products and gives consumers a guide to identify trusted and quality food products,” he said.
Other experts at the seminar spoke about the FSMA, geographical indication certificates, and the use of high technology for food safety.
Food safety regulations under FSMA have become stricter, with more inspections and higher standards, causing difficulties for Vietnamese exports, especially since June 2016 when the law took effect, experts warned.
Other countries to which Việt Nam exports, including Canada, the EU and Australia, are expected to have a similar law.
Dr. Delphine Marie Vivien, of the Innovation Research Unit and Malica Research Consortium, said consumers were increasingly concerned about how their food was produced.
“The origin of food is very important for consumers who value tradition and cultural identity, and who are sensitive to specific sensorial characteristics of the products. Some consumers are willing to pay more to find such characteristics in the product,” she told Việt Nam News.
Geographical indication (GI), for example, is used on products that have a specific geographical origin, for example, town, region or country, and possess qualities or a reputation that are attributable to that origin, she said.
Vũ Thế Thành, food safety lecturer at VASEP, cited the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act in the US as an example of strict standards.
The regulation, which took effect in January 2006, applies to conventional foods, vitamins and dietary supplements, infant formula and food, and medical foods.
Thành said that 2 per cent of adults and 5 per cent of children in the US are allergic to certain kinds of food, with 30,000 people hospitalised for emergency cases and 150 people dying from food allergies every year.
“Information about allergens must be clear so that customers can identify allergens quickly, easily and accurately,” he said.
Eight major food allergens include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts such as cashews, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish such as crab and lobster, he added.
Participants at the meeting also called on local companies to increase the use of organic farming practices in agricultural production, animal breeding and aquaculture.
Organic certification would open the door for Vietnamese goods to export to choosy markets like the US, Japan and the EU, according to Hạnh of the High Quality Vietnamese Goods Business Association.
The seminar was organised by the Vietnamese High Quality Product Business Association with the collaboration of the Food Safety Management Board of HCM City.
It was held as a sidelines activity at the Vietnamese High-Quality Products Fair, which opened yesterday at Phú Thọ Stadium in HCM City’s District 11. It will close on April 8.