The so-called ‘dirty meat’ – why does it end up in Vietnam?

October 20, 2009

LookAtVietnam – The Veterinary Agency’s office in HCM City has stopped a number of shipments of American chicken on suspicion that it’s been refused entry to other countries.

The papers accompanying some recent shipments of meat to Vietnam say that their destination is Russia and China, but these have somehow reached our ports.  That’s not all; in many cases the information provided about the manufacturing dates and expiry dates is obscure.


Local newspaper Saigon Tiep Thi has done some research on this phenomenon.  It reported that on October 13, the ‘Tho Trade and Production Company’ filed a customs declaration at Cat Lai Port (HCMC) for 24.5 tonnes of frozen chicken legs which it imported from an American company, ‘SellAries.’  


When the Veterinary Agency Zone 6 office was taking samples for food hygiene testing, it discovered a sub-label which said that the consignment was for export to Russia. The Agency refused to clear the chicken legs, suspecting that they’d already been rejected by Russian authorities and diverted to Vietnam.


The importer then forwarded to the Veterinary Agency an explanation by the large US meat company, Pilgrim’s Pride.  The American company had diverted part of a larger shipment that it was sending to Russia in order to satisfy the Vietnamese company’s relatively small order.  It did not change the sub-label. Pilgrim’s Pride explained that the products it exports to different countries in the world all have the same quality.


The Veterinary Agency is unpersuaded.  An official there speculated that after the shipment was rejected in Vladivostok, the US importer refused to take the exports back, and so they were carried to Vietnam.


This is not the first such case, says Saigon Tiep Thi.  “When we examined the records of meat shipments in recent months, we found quite a few instances of chicken from the US that was certified for export to China or Russia but still turned up in Vietnam.  In September 2009, one enterprise filed papers on seven containers of chicken legs which on subsequent inspection were found to be intended for export to Russia, not Vietnam.


The Director of Veterinary Zone 6, Nguyen Xuan Binh, said that his agency is determined to stop such traffic.  “It is against regulations to carry products to Vietnam which are licensed to be exported to other countries. Importers must require their foreign partners to clearly stipulate that Vietnam is the destination.”


Binh did not specify which regulation was violated.  The US Embassy says that American meat exporters are required to strictly follow the rules each nation establishes; these are collected and published on line for exporters’ guidance.


“We would like to know specifically which rule or regulation caused the Veterinary Agency to refuse to test and clear the shipments,” VietNamNet Bridge was told.


Saigon Tiep Thi learned that it’s still possible for consignments of frozen meat with no clear manufacturing and expiry dates to get cleared into Vietnam.


Some months ago, Metro Vietnam signed a contract with an US company to import two containers of chicken legs. However, because the consignments did not show clear manufacturing date and the Veterinary Agency refused to take samples for testing, Metro declined to accept the consignment.


However, one week later, when someone from another company contacted Metro to buy back the chicken consignment, he was told that ‘necessary documents had been obtained’ and that the imported meat had been cleared through the port. It is still unclear, the newspaper says, how the consignment was able to obtain quarantine certificate and enter the domestic market.



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