Vietnam scraps tough new rules on meat sales

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The agriculture ministry has rescinded new tighter regulations on meat safety and hygiene after they were criticized as  being impractical, Vietnamnet reported Saturday.

Thus the rule that fresh meat should be sold within eight hours if not kept in deep freeze, and within three days if frozen (24 hours for offal), will not take effect on September 3 as earlier planned.

Neither will a regulation requiring egg sellers to set up specific zones for sterilizing and labeling eggs.

The regulations, drafted by the ministry's Department of Animal Health, drew criticism from sellers, especially those in markets, and experts, after they were announced last month.

Speaking to Vietnamnet last month, Phan Tu Anh, who runs a pork stall in Hanoi's Trung Kinh market, said every day it takes sellers a couple of hours to transport the meat from slaughterhouses and make preparations before opening their stalls.

That means all the meat would have to be sold by noon, which was impossible, she said. "What about days when business is not good? Will we have to get rid of all the rest?" she asked further.

Other sellers said fresh meat cannot be bought from abattoirs in the afternoon because they only open in the morning.

Can Xuan Binh, chief of Hanoi's animal health agency, said it would take time to enforce the regulations effectively given the huge number of markets and shortage of official resources.

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Since Vietnamese have a preference for fresh food, most small sellers do not use freezers or other preservation equipment, he pointed out.

Critics also raised doubts about the practicability of the regulations since consumers cannot be expected to tell if meat sold in a stall had been butchered within the eight-hour limit.

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