Food poisoning killed 35 in Vietnam last year

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Thirty-five people were killed by Vietnam's 152 major food poisoning cases last year, authorities said at a health conference in Hanoi Wednesday.

More than half of the 5,200 people poisoned got sick while at home or visiting friends' houses, while only 4 percent were caused by street food, the ministry's Vietnam Food Administrator reported at the meeting.

Others cases were brought on by food at parties and factory canteens.

Representatives at the conference also said that recent tests had revealed that many shipments of Chinese-import fruits were contaminated by high levels chemical substances and insecticides, the conference heard.

Two out of every ten Chinese tangerine samples inspected tested positive for excessive levels of deltamethrin a synthetic insecticide the administration said, adding that 10 percent of 40 pear, grape and red date samples contained more preservatives than allowed.

Trinh Quan Huan, deputy minister of health, said inspections at food and production businesses exposed common violations like substandard product quality and mislabeling.

Nguyen Cong Khan, head of the Vietnam Food Administration, said Vietnam still faced a human resources shortage that prevented it from dealing effectively with food safety problems.

Though each province has its own food safety agency, the agencies only employed an average of 11 people each, including two doctors, Khan said, adding that each team needed at 20-30 members to combat food hygiene issues properly.

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are the only two locales in the country to have been assigned a budget for food safety and hygiene this year, Huan noted.

The two major cities planned to use VND29 billion (US$1.5 million) and VND50 billion ($2.7 million), respectively, to ensure food safety, he said.

In related news, HCMC's Market Management Agency on Wednesday confiscated more than 1,200 Chinese jewelry items suspected of containing toxic lead and cadmium at District 5-based An Dong Trade Center.

The agency said they had taken samples from the polished and plated items for tests.

The jewelry items, including necklaces, bracelets and rings would be destroyed if they contained the carcinogens, inspectors said.

Early this month the agency found lead and cadmium in 7,500 jewelry items seized from two local markets, including An Dong.

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