While several unlicensed chemicals have been widely used to ripen and preserve fruits in Vietnam, local authorities have yet to work out more effective ways to manage the problem.
Pham Thi Vuong, Acting Director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Plant Protection Department, said she herself is still unsure about the safety of fruit preservation and ripening substances.
“Once I bought Chinese oranges and kept some for a test. The fruit stayed fresh for several months. This has added to my worry over the safety of such fruits,” Vuong said.
According to her, several countries around world have used certain chemicals to preserve fruits after harvesting. However they keep the fruits in a cool environment that is suitable for each particular type of fruits.
“I don’t know if China uses other technologies. If their technology is safe we can learn from them,” she said.
“I think that the reason why people are worried is that they don’t have enough information about the issue. In order to reassure the public, it’s important to conduct inspections and make the results public,” Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat said.
He noted that he has heard rumours about the fruit preservation substances and said that it is important to work out a mechanism of management.
“In fact, traders of domestic farm produce, especially fruits, are already using preservatives but we’ve yet to get it under control,” he admitted.
Nguyen Xuan Hong, Director of the Plant Protection Department, said several countries in the world, such as the US and Australia as well as European countries, have used safe chemicals in fruit ripening and preservation and many of these substances originate from naturally-occurring botanical hormones and organic acids.
He added, however, that they have yet to license any such substances for use in Vietnam. This means that chemicals currently used for fruit preservation and ripening in the country are illegal.
Two enterprises are seeking approval to import safe fruit preservation substances into Vietnam. These chemicals are still under a trial period. They are expected to be granted licenses for use by the end of this year.
“Etylen has been the only legal substance used for fruit ripening in the world. We’ve recently discovered illegally imported chemicals from China in southern Vietnam. After analysis, we found it was 28% ethephon, which can create etylen when dissolved in a solution. This substance is used in organic farming and safe for fruit ripening,” he noted.
Nguyen Nhu Tiep, Director of Agro, Forestry and Fishery Quality Control Department said, “Even though ethephon is safe, we need to clarify other substances currently used for fruit ripening and preservation to confirm whether they are safe or not. A process of testing, inspection, and licensing should be conducted before informing to the people.”