News / Asia

Celebrity Chef Highlights Lack of Safe Ingredients in Vietnam

FILE - Chef Bobby Chinn sips from a bowl of Laksa, a dish popular in Singapore hawker centres, while posing for a photo in Singapore.
FILE - Chef Bobby Chinn sips from a bowl of Laksa, a dish popular in Singapore hawker centres, while posing for a photo in Singapore.
Marianne Brown
Celebrity Chef Bobby Chinn is best known across Asia for his televised cooking shows, but in Vietnam, where he has two restaurants, he is raising awareness about food safety and sustainable fishing. 

At Bobby Chinn’s Hanoi restaurant, the popular chef, launched a so-called “responsible seafood menu” to a room packed with local reporters. The event encouraged the use of seafood products, in Chinn’s case tuna and clams, certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council.

Chinn prepared a dish using certified tuna caught using specially designed hooks which do not threaten endangered turtles. His menu also includes clams which have been farmed using environmentally friendly and sustainable methods.

The pre-dominant message was overfishing, but the event also highlighted a problem facing Vietnamese consumers often aired in the local media.

“What I’m experiencing as a chef of 18 years is I have no idea where any of the products are coming from. You can say the beef is from the U.S. and has a stamp on it but it might not be," he said. "Recently in Vietnam we discovered that 80 percent of the noodles were laced with toxic chemicals to keep them white. So it’s really time for a change.”

Vietnam is one of the world’s top seafood exporters, with exports of catfish accounting for 90 percent of the global market. While not all exported goods are labeled with information which includes whether that product is certified or not, industry experts recognize that labels with more information are more popular with consumers, said Ngo.

Tien Chuong, Aquaculture Coordinator at the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Vietnam office.

He said the general trend is for authorities to make production for export more sustainable while less attention is paid to domestic consumption.

Lack of information on food sourcing and ingredients is a big issue for Vietnamese consumers, many of whom worry about the overuse of pesticides in vegetables, and excessive use of antibiotics and formaldehyde in meat.
Last month some residents in Lao Cai province were hospitalized after eating dried fish, which was later found to contain high levels of histamines, local media reported.

Poisoning cases have been blamed on poor enforcement of hygiene standards but so far there is no certification process in place for consumers at home.

Chuong said certified products and high quality products in Vietnam are mainly sold for the export market.  But with a population of 90 million people, the country’s domestic market should not be ignored.

The lack of information available for consumers is also a big problem for chefs, Chinn said. “I only have a handful of suppliers and I keep my fingers crossed that they are going to provide me with what I ask them to provide me. But every restaurant, every hotel, every consumer has the exact same problem,” he noted.

Although many of the customers at his restaurants in Vietnam are foreigners, Chinn says he hopes his new menu will encourage consumers to be more demanding about where their food comes from.   He said chefs in Vietnam need to be better educated and start showing more concern about what they are serving their guests.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs