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Meat rots in city ports as safety rules scare importers   2009-09-20 - Tuoi Tre

A worker checks the temperature of a container of frozen meet in Sai Gon Port  
More than 5,000 tons of frozen meat imports have been left to rot at Ho Chi Minh City ports for several months now.


The city’s tightening of controls on food safety has deterred importers from claiming goods unlikely to pass safety and hygiene stipulations.

The Customs Office at Saigon Port Zone No.1 said more than 190 frozen food containers of mainly chicken and pork have been left unclaimed at the Cat Lai Port in District 2. Port authorities say most of the containers arrived in August and even in July but their owners have not come to collect their goods.

Nguyen Huu Thinh, deputy head of the customs office, said although the number of containers keeps growing at the port, only two or three importers have come every day since mid-August to get their shipments cleared.

Thinh said importers can only have their goods cleared after they receive a permit from animal health authorities. Meat imports left at ports for months mean their owners cannot meet food safety requirements, he said.

Nguyen The Dung, director of Phuoc Long Port in District 9, said his port has kept five containers of frozen food for up to 10 months and all the goods have expired.

“Although the port has asked the shipping lines and importers to work together and offload the shipments, they’ve just refused” Dung said.

Thinh said normally, after 180 days and three reminders, all unclaimed goods will be liquidated to pay for port services. However, the port will have to pay to have expired food products destroyed as required by animal health authorities.

The Animal Health Agency Zone VI, which overlooks the region from Ninh Thuan Province southward to Ben Tre Province, said it has set stricter regulations on meat imports since August after it discovered a large amount of imported products were contaminated with bacteria.

The agency said it used to allow importers to clear customs for their products first before they applied for a permit. But now importers cannot collect their goods from ports without the permit.

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