Vietnamese are consuming too much starch and sugar and only half the amount of daily vegetables recommended, partly because of worries about pesticides, experts said.
A recent survey by the National Institute of Nutrition found a person in Vietnam consumes 200 grams of vegetables on average a day, which is half the quantity advised by the World Health Organization.
The amount has remained the same since 1985 when Vietnam had a much smaller supply of vegetables and other foods.
Vietnamese are also consuming too much starch and sugar, which can cause metabolic disorders and diabetes.
Le Bach Mai, deputy director of the institute, said at a conference in Hanoi Saturday that the amount of starch consumed daily in Vietnam has doubled in the past decade to 33 grams per person.
He also blamed parents for letting children drink too much of soft drinks and sweetened milk.
She said each can of soft drink has 36 – 63 grams of sugar, while a person should not consume more than 20 grams a day.
“The habit has caused Vietnam a high rate of tooth decay. But while that can be fixed, metabolic disorders and diabetes will follow one forever.”
Mai said people do not eat a lot of vegetables also because they fear that greens are not safe these days.
Inspections by the agriculture ministry at a commune on Hanoi’s outskirts that is considered a major supplier of clean vegetables to northern Vietnam found five pesticide shops.
The shop owners said chemical products are preferred since they are more effective than safer biological alternatives.
Many shops in Hanoi also sell a Chinese liquid that farmers buy to dunk their green fruits in to ripen them within one or two days.
A man living in a Hanoian suburb, who did not want to be named, said farmers in rural areas these days use a lot of pesticides and other chemicals.
The 62-year-old said he has rectal cancer, which he blamed on the high amount of pesticides he has to inhale every day from nearby paddy fields.
He said one day he walked close by a field and his eyes teared because of the dense chemicals in the air.
He said most farmers have a separate area for their own food where they do not spray chemicals.
Mai said 43 percent of cancer cases in the country are related to food consumption.
A doctor from the Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital cited a study by the Union for International Cancer Control released at a conference last year as saying that 30-50 percent of cancer cases are related to food and drink, especially in developing countries.
Doctors said excessive use of chemicals in vegetables exposes consumers to the risk of lymphoma, brain cancer, leukemia, and prostate cancer.
The hospital said it sees an “alarming” increase in the number of patients every year. Compared to 12,000 in the whole of last year, there have been 14,000 patients in just the first seven months this year.