Vietnam's Health Ministry has started to check hotpot seasonings sold by retail outlets nationwide following reports that some of them made in China are toxic and contain cancer-causing substances.
Chinese newspapers recently reported that a hotpot seasoning from Sichuan Province contains toxic chemicals that give the broth fragrance, a spicy taste and a light red color.
The Food Safety and Hygiene Department at the ministry has established inspection teams and will cooperate with the National Institute for Food Control to take samples from seasonings sold by retailers for testing.
Many vendors in Hanoi told the local news website VnExpress that they sold Sichuan hotpot seasonings but not the one reported by the media as toxic.
At the Dong Xuan wholesale market in the capital city, Sichuan seasonings are not displayed outside like other Vietnamese seasonings. The booth owners only sell them when customers by at least 10 packs at a time.
The packs do not have Vietnamese translations.
A local hotpot seasoning retailer, who wished not to be named, said each pack of Sichuan hotpot seasoning worth VND7,000 (US$0.34) can make five to six hotpots.
Some vendors, though selling Sichuan products, advised customers to buy Vietnamese ones.
"This is Chinese. You should buy Vietnamese seasonings, better and safer," said a vendor.
Nguyen Thanh Phong, deputy head of the ministry's food safety and hygiene department, said food products without Vietnamese translations are not to be sold in Vietnam.
However, "whether they have toxic substances or not can only be concluded after examinations," Phong said.