Offal import ban likely to be lifted

Vietnam is expected to remove its ban on offal imports, which will enable foreign firms to bring these products into the country, prompting concern among the public, who fear that the products may cause diseases.

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Under the latest draft Law on Animal Husbandry which is currently under debate, Vietnam would remove its ban on the importation of offal products. In the previous draft, such a ban was imposed on “any types of offal or intestines in any form”.

“Domestic consumers still have a demand for these products, so there should be no ban on offal imports,” Nguyen Xuan Duong, vice head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (MARD) Department for Livestock Production, told VIR. “It is also difficult to regulate the ban in the law.”

According to the US Trade Department, if this regulation is passed by the National Assembly this November, it will enable foreign firms, including US ones, to boost exports of these products into Vietnam.

Currently, the importation of frozen offal products is prescribed in a number of MARD documents, the validity of which remains uncertain, meaning Vietnam can allow or prohibit the importation of the products at any time. However, once stipulated in a law, such importations will become more stable in validity.

Firms in Vietnam currently import offal products from many nations, such as the US, Russia, the Republic of Korea, Japan, and China.

According to the US Trade Department, the US, a big exporter of white offal such as stomach and intestines, is expecting Vietnam to no longer impose any ban on offal products.

The MARD already announced the lifting of Vietnam’s ban on the importation of offal products in September 2013. In February 2014, Vietnam reached an agreement with the US on the terms and conditions necessary to resume trade in these products, pending the registration of individual US beef, pork, and poultry facilities used to produce white offal products for sale in Vietnam.

Following a November 2014 audit of the US food safety inspection system for meat and poultry conducted by the MARD, the ministry continued to assert that white offal carried high risks.

In December 2014, the MARD informed the US that it would stop approving new US facilities to export certain types of white offal to Vietnam until it received a US report on corrective measures based on Vietnam’s recommendations from the audit. Since that time, the US has provided extensive information to Vietnam, demonstrating the safety of US white offal.

The US also raised white offal with Vietnam at the technical and political levels on several occasions, including during Trade and Investment Framework Agreement meetings in 2017.

However, many have raised concerns over the permission of the importation of offal products.

For example, David John Whitehead, chairman of Australian-backed animal feed producer Mavin Group JSC, told VIR, “Offal is a problem, because it often contains bacteria and can transmit diseases. So there is always a need for very high standards when considering importing offal products.

“I know that offal is still used in Vietnam for food production and consumption, but around the world, there are high standards for transporting, managing, and importing offal. The Vietnamese government should be very careful in allowing the importation of offal products,” said Whitehead, who is also head of the agriculture working group of the Vietnam Business Forum.

Nguyen Van Ngoc, vice chairman of the Southeastern Poultry Association, said that there should be a ban on the importation because offal products are, by nature, waste, and not good for human health.

“Moreover, it will have negative impacts on the domestic animal husbandry sector, which also deals in offal products,” Ngoc said.

A representative from the Vietnam Animal Feed Association, agreed, saying that the importation of offal products should not be allowed.

“In many cases, these products are contaminated with diseases and dangerous to human health. If they are allowed to be imported into Vietnam, their quality must be thoroughly examined,” the representative said.