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Loose management over bottled water production

Vietnam now has hundreds of thousands of bottled water producers. Information about their failure to meet standards for bottled water in terms of food hygiene and safety has recently raised public concern as the management over water production has proved to be ineffective.

Violations in regulations on food quality, hygiene and safety for bottled pure water have become serious. Water of sub-standard hygiene and safety can cause dangerous diseases such as pneumonia, respiratory infections, ulceration and immune system failure.

According to the results of bottled water samples taken throughout the country in April, one third of the samples were in violation.

In HCM City, 129 out of 329 producers have failed to reach required standards of food hygiene and safety, and 53 were forced to suspend their production.

Last month, the HCM City Health Department suspended 9 more producers for producing bottled water which was infected with microorganisms. In addition, a number of kinds of bottled water in HCM City were found to contain pseumonas, which is a very dangerous virus, resistant to medication and capable of causing intestinal and blood infections.

Meanwhile, most private producers in Hanoi have also failed to meet regulations on environmental sanitation, leading to poor quality of bottled water.

With hundreds of “fake” names mimicing well-known water producers along with aggressive advertising and creative claims such as producing water by an automatic purification production line and sterilization by ultraviolet rays, a large number of customers are defrauded by “dirty” producers.

A representative from the Department for Food Hygiene and Safety, Dr Lam Quoc Hung said that it is essential to increase the efficiency of controlling food quality, hygiene and safety during the process of producing bottled water. If violations are detected, authorized agencies can revoke the business permits of producers and subject them to a legal investigation.

The Ministry of Health is planning to build a set of standards on bottling techniques to which producers must abide by law.

In fact, most consumers have to pay for bottled water filtered from drilled well water at a price which is equivalent to natural mineral water. Nguyen Viet Linh, head of the sales department of the Hanoi Hapuwa Pure Water Factory, said that at low-cost water filtering facilities, the quality of pure water is not ensured. If not being decontaminated properly, some bacteria, such as E.Coli in drilled well water, are still present in “pure water” and can have a negative impact on people’s health, he added.

According to a representative from Tien Hai natural mineral water company, in a number of big cities like Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City, there are 300-500 water labels. Many pure water companies are granted quality certificates without any inspection or testing. Ho Tat Thang, deputy head of the Vietnam Consumer Protection Association, said that businesses are allowed to take samples of water for testing and complete the procedures by themselves, with no guarantee that the sample is from the water they produce.

Dr. Lam Quoc Hung, a representative from the Department of Food Hygiene and Safety under the Ministry of Health, admitted that there still remain some shortcomings in the management of purified water. A synchronous administrative management system and a comprehensive food hygiene and safety inspection agency have not yet been established due to the lack of staff and financial resources, resulting in ineffective management in this field.

According to medial experts, it is essential to impose sanctions against those bottled water factories which violate food hygiene and safety regulations. It is also necessary to intensify inspection and examination of these factories and not allow them to take water samples for testing by themselves.

Source: CPV/VOV News

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