Many tangerines, pears and apples imported from China to Ho Chi Minh City contain traces of pesticide, a new investigation found.
Ho Chi Minh City Plant Protection Department, which supervises fruit and vegetable quality (particularly the use of chemical preservatives and fertilizers) for the municipal region, said recent tests found that at least 30 percent of Chinese fruit contains excessive traces of pesticides.
An official at the department said fruit imports from other countries contain almost no pesticide residues.
The department tests five to ten fruit samples brought to the city wholesale markets every day, though the official admitted they can't check everything.
Dr Vo Mai, vice chairman of Vietnam Gardening Association and former deputy head of the plant protect department at the agriculture ministry, said the ratio of contaminated Chinese fruit is “quite serious.”
“Normally, pesticides stay in fruit five to seven days after being sprayed. But in these instances, they've persisted the long journey from China into Ho Chi Minh City; they were definitely sprayed too much,” Mai said.
Agricultural experts said that once ingested, these pesticides can persist in the liver or adipose tissues and do damage to the digestive, cardiological systems.
[The pesticides] persisted after a long journey from China down south into Ho Chi Minh City; they were definitely sprayed too much”
Consuming a large amount of pesticides can cause acute poisoning, diarrhea, mental disorders like headaches, comas, seizures, spastic muscles, or heart and respiratory decline that can be fatal, they said.
Consumers boycott on Chinese fruits
Many vendors at the city wholesale markets said poisoning concerns have slowed down sales of Chinese fruits.
Huong, a vendor in District 2, said: “The consumption of local fruit and imports used to be equal, but now people buy less foreign fruit, even less Chinese fruit. Only 30 percent of foreign fruits are consumed, the rest is Vietnamese.”
Dr Mai said Vietnam’s ability to control fruit safety is still limited, so consumers need to protect themselves by switching between fruits instead of sticking to a single kind, and by prioritizing local fruit.
But vendors still favor Chinese vegetables
Thu, a farmer from the Central Highlands resort town of Da Lat, said she's sitting on 120 tons of rotting onions.
“I call vendors in Ho Chi Minh City every day but no one agrees to take mine. They said they would only do if my onions are as beautiful as the Chinese,” she told Tuoi Tre newspaper.
Thu said she's faced the same dilemma every year: local farmers harvested just as huge shipments come over the Chinese border.
A wholesaler in HCMC's Thu Duc District said she sells 30 tons of Chinese onions, shallots and garlic a day.
She said they sell easy as they are cheap, at less than half a dollar for a kilograms of onion and around three for garlic.
Thu Duc wholesale market sells around 150 tons of Chinese vegetables a day, around 15 percent of foreign veggies.
Thuy, another farmer from Da Lat, is also stuck with a bunch of potatoes.
She has been calling every wholesale market in the city asking vendors to showcase some of her potatoes for sale.
“I just ask them to take the potatoes and don't dare to question their prices; I'll take whatever I can get at this point.”
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