Back Eat & Drink » Thanh Nien Issues Public Apology for Fish Sauce Articles, Vinastas Under Investigation

Both the Vietnam Standards and Consumers Association (Vinastas) and Thanh Nien newspaper have publicly apologized after a string of articles published by the latter claimed many brands of local fish sauce were tainted by arsenic.

In its October 7 report, Vinastas alleged that 70% of the 150 fish sauce samples tested contained high levels of arsenic, according to VnExpress. The samples were obtained from 19 cities and provinces throughout the country.

However, while the report is technically correct – the samples do, in fact, contain levels of arsenic – VnExpress points out that the substance is organic arsenic, which occurs naturally and is safe for human consumption. Inorganic arsenic, on the other hand, is toxic, however the researchers failed to distinguish between these two varieties of arsenic in their report.

Following the release of the Vinastas study, Thanh Nien published a series of articles on the hazards of industrial fish sauce and questionable food safety standards in Vietnam. The five articles, some of which discussed arsenic levels in locally produced fish sauce, further stoked public fear surrounding fish sauce consumption.

On October 23, Thanh Nien published an apology to its readers, saying that its publication of the fish sauce articles was done independently, and that the news source would “take responsibility” for creating the false rumor. Thanh Nien also removed the five articles from its website.

In an effort to assuage public concern, the Ministry of Health also announced the results of its own fish sauce research over the past weekend. Of the 247 samples taken from both traditional and industrial fish sauce producers, all contained safe levels of organic arsenic, while none contained its toxic inorganic counterpart.

Meanwhile, a team of inspectors led by the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Vietnam Competition Authority is investigating Vinastas, which received funding from an anonymous donor to conduct the survey. According to Minister of Public Security To Lam, those found guilty of disseminating the misleading information could face criminal charges.

Fish sauce manufacturing associations in Kien Giang, Binh Thuan and Hai Phong have also appealed to government authorities to take action against those responsible for publishing the misleading information.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade, along with the Ministry of Information and Communication, will submit its findings to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc by November 10.

[Photo via Thanh Nien]

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