The produce is often laced with a toxic cocktail of pesticide residues causing leading agricultural experts to raise the alarm that Vietnamese consumers may be unwittingly exposed to hazardous levels of pesticides.
The Hanoi-based Long Bien wholesale market, the largest farm produce market in northern Vietnam, imports between 200-300 tonnes of grapes, apples, cabbages, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and onions from China every day.
These products are mixed with similar Vietnamese fruits and vegetables in retail markets, making it difficult for consumers to distinguish with the naked eye.
Tran Thu Huong, a consumer in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan district, said that most of the cabbages, tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes available at her nearby markets are imported from China.
“My family refuses to buy these products because we are afraid of unsafe food and the plethora of chemicals they contain,” she shared.
A recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development (MARD) reveals that most markets in Hanoi are selling Chinese fruits and vegetables.
Since 2013 the Plant Protection Department (PPD) has found 17 shipments of grapes, lemons, carrots, apples, and oranges, about 300 tonnes in weight imported into Vietnam, had pesticide residues exceeding the authorized levels. These fruits were labeled with Vietnamese brand to disguise their true origin.
However, because of deceptive product labeling and other illicit business practices, consumers may not fully realize the produce is from China and be fully cognizant of the dangers it poses to their health and well being.
Nguyen Thi Nui, a retailer at Trung Hoa market in Hanoi, said she sells tens of 100kg packages of fruits and vegetables weekly which are imported from China and suggests that consumers pay close attention to the price of the produce.
“The prices of higher quality Made-in-Vietnam products are often two or three times higher than the inferior produce imported from the Chinese market,” she said.
Huynh Tan Dat, a food hygiene and safety expert, stressed the need to step up measures to better detect imported farm produce and beef up inspection of it.
“It is fundamentally essential to identify and certify product origin and quality before being shipped into the domestic market,” Dat said. “The PPD will strictly examine batches of Chinese goods in line with current regulations and international practice in order to ensure food hygiene and safety in Vietnam.”