Health inspectors in Ho Chi Minh City have launched an investigation into the production of disposable food boxes this week following media reports of carcinogenic substances found in such products in China.
"Inspectors from the Health Department and Food Safety Agency are coordinating to inspect the recycling facilities that make Styrofoam and plastic boxes for packing food," said Nguyen
Minh Hung, chief inspector of the municipal Health Department.
About half of the disposable dishware used in China is unsafe, with excessive amounts of chemicals that can cause cancer, the China Daily quoted Dong Jinshi, vice-president of the Hong Kong-based International Food Packaging Association, as saying on March 26.
The information has sparked concerns in Vietnam where disposable food boxes have been widely used over the past years and latest reports from authorities showed that there had been lax management over the issue.
The owner of an eatery on HCMC's Vo Van Tan Street said all eateries use Styrofoam boxes for take-away rice and plastic boxes for soup and gruel. "I bought 150 Styrofoam boxes for VND40,000 (US$2.1) while prices for 150 plastic boxes are VND10,000 higher," she said.
Nguyen Cong Khan, head of Vietnam Food Administration, said on March 31 that the agency had tested around 60 samples of disposable food containers and found no presence of harmful chemicals exceeding the levels currently deemed safe.
However, he said the tests couldn't ensure that all boxes in the market were safe.
"We have yet to take samples of all products and there are still unregistered producers. The use of disqualified food containers could cause the contamination of heavy metals like lead and cadmium as well as carcinogenic chemicals," he said.
Phung Ha, head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Chemicals Department, said that producers could be using cheap and harmful chemicals to make such cheap containers. He also said his agency would inspect the production of food containers in several cities and provinces soon.