By Huynh Thi Thuy Hanh
In Ho Chi Minh City, 95 percent of Vietnamese buy street food. The ubiquitous sight of food stalls, conveniently located in busy streets to alleyways, from school gates to bus stops, markets to the parks, have made street food an indispensable part of locals’ everyday diet. In proportion to the popularity of street food are incidences of foodborne illnesses. In Ho Chi Minh City, the Ministry of Health reported that 84 percent of street food vendors did not meet food hygiene and safety standards and regulations, resulting to the prevalence of Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, and Escherichia coli.
Since 2016, Mekong Institute (MI) has been implementing the PROSAFE: Promoting Safe Food for Everyone project in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam (CLMV). Funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme, MI provides hands-on training courses on food safety management to control food risks and hazards along the horticultural value chain and promote regulatory compliance. As part of the training, MI also encourages participants to develop action plans so they can transfer food safety knowledge gained to their home countries.
Over the last few years, MI has trained more than 500 CLMV nationals under PROSAFE, a quarter of which are from Vietnam. These include government officials from the Food Safety Management Authority of Ho Chi Minh City (FSA HCM) such as Mr. Nguyen Dai Ngoc, Mr. Do Duc Cong, and Mr. Nguyen Duy Khang, who have collectively conducted trainings for over 2,000 representatives of catering businesses, culinary schools, food companies, as well as street food vendors on food safety, risk management, personal hygiene and sanitation.
Moreover, they have collaborated with district and ward officials in establishing a food safety control model for street food businesses to ensure that the 2010 Vietnamese Food Safety Law is widely implemented. Through their combined efforts, Ho Chi Minh City established 36 safe food wards, 29 safe food zones, and 50 food safety routes in 23 districts.
Other FSA HCM officials, including Mr. Ho Quoc Khanh, Ms. Vu De Anh, Ms. Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, and Ms. Ngo Tran My Thi, led efforts to raise public awareness for better understanding on food safety and hygiene practices through local communication campaigns. With the continuous efforts and support of local authorities and MI alumni, safe street food in Ho Chi Minh City will soon be realized—creating peace of mind for consumers.