HANOI, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- "It is extremely hard for homemakers like me to choose clean and healthy food sources for my family meals these days," Le Thi Nguyet Minh, 34, told Xinhua.
In the past years, Vietnam has been witnessing an increasing number of newly diagnosed cancer patients each year, which is said to be an inevitable consequence from smoking, a polluted environment, abuse of growth stimulants and plant preservation chemicals in cultivation, as well as changes in living and eating habits.
According to Vietnam's Ministry of Health, each year, Vietnam reports around 150,000 new cancer cases while more than 75,000 patients die of the disease.
In addition, more and more local reports on dirty food scandals are raising alarming bells among Vietnamese consumers, regarding food safety and the adverse risks on consumers' health.
Speaking to Xinhua at a fair on clean food and agricultural products held in Vietnam's capital city of Hanoi recently, Minh said, "At least the products here are somehow guaranteed as they are closely monitored by local authorities in all phases from plantation, through to feeding and finally processing."
Such fairs are frequently held in big cities in Vietnam. This time, the fair drew the participation of some 150 companies showcasing from 200 booths, which attracted tens of thousands of visitors.
However, as these fairs are not held all year round, local customers must in their daily lives meet their demand in clean food shops, said Minh.
The homemaker said based on her experience, that food is now divided into four categories. The cheapest food is sold in small and temporary markets, followed by big markets, supermarkets, and lastly clean food stores.
Currently, nearly 70 percent of Vietnam's fresh food is sold at traditional markets, said the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT), adding that most of the food sold at supermarkets have clear origin certificates and are sealed with food safety standards while those at traditional markets have seen risks.
As public concerns on food safety grow, shops labeling "clean vegetables," and "clean food," are mushrooming. However, their real quality has remained a question.
On the 400-meter-long Hoang Van Thai street in Hanoi, there are some ten shops selling so called clean food. Also on the Internet, online shops are also flourishing. With only one click, customers can buy clean food with free delivery.
According to Hanoi Plant Protection Department, only 58 shops have been granted with licenses for selling safe vegetables in the city. But, the number in fact could reach thousands.
Ngo Nhu Quan, chief of "Nong San Ngon" (Good Agricultural Products) website, said his vegetables are sold at prices three times higher than market prices as his staff has to follow the international standard of Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) to produce clean food.
However, in some cases, market vegetables are labeled safe and sold at prices of clean vegetables, Quan worried.
According to Vo Minh Hai, director of local Vien Phu company, which produces a kind of organic rice, anyone in Vietnam is free to declare their vegetables are clean and organic although they do not have a plantation area and have no certificate validating their organic vegetables.
This is unfair to customers and affects those who do business honestly, said Hai.
Nguyen Manh Hung, deputy head of the Vietnam Standards and Consumer Protection Association, said even when the clean food stores are provided with business certificates, it is not ensured that they will strictly follow the transportation and perseveration processes.
"If we fail to manage the industry in a chain from production, processing, transporting and trading, we will not be able to ensure that 100 percent clean food will be delivered to customers," said Hung.
In order to solve the problem, Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) is supporting and encouraging local enterprises to boost the application of science, technology and advanced cultivation into agricultural production as well as establish a supply chain of safe food.
Understanding the importance of the need for clean food, many big economic groups in Vietnam have expanded investment into this area.
"Currently, many big companies have started investing into high-quality and safe agricultural production. All across Vietnam, more than 380 chains of safe agricultural products have been set up," said Vu Van Tam, MARD deputy minister.
Meanwhile, the MoIT aims for Vietnam to have 1,300 supermarkets and more than 300 commercial centers in the next ten years, which will become an important channel for local people to get access to safe food sources.