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ACIAR funds project to help improve pork safety in Vietnam
The Saigon Times
Tuesday,  Aug 4, 2020,18:44 (GMT+7)

ACIAR funds project to help improve pork safety in Vietnam

The Saigon Times

Pork is sold at a wet market in Vietnam – PHOTO: COURTESY OF ACIAR

HCMC - The Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is funding a project, the SafePORK project, which involves working with wet market retailers and small-scale abattoirs in Vietnam to increase the use of improved food safety practices in the handling of pork.

Improving the safety of pork products is of growing importance in Vietnam, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic has provided more evidence that the world is inter-connected and the health of the environment and animals will affect human health.

The SafePORK project will look at the risks of food-borne disease from pork meat, which is a major public health problem in the country. Most food-borne diseases are due to livestock and fish products or vegetables sold in wet markets.

According to ACIAR, pork is the most widely consumed meat and approximately one in five consumers fall ill each year due to pork-borne Salmonella, costing millions of dollars to the Vietnamese health sector.

More than 40% of all pork sold in wet markets was found to be contaminated by Salmonella, arising from a variety of hazards along the pork value chain.

With more than 80% of pork—slaughtered in small-scale abattoirs and sold at wet markets— produced by smallholder farmers, ensuring food safety practices that are practical for these businesses is key to improving the country’s food safety record.

Fred Unger, SafePORK principal investigator, said the project “focuses on the traditional pork chain trialing simple, cheap interventions developed in a participatory process with slaughterers and retailers”.

Interventions at the retail level include using cutting boards, wearing clean aprons and washing meat surfaces and vendors’ hands frequently.

Selected retailers will receive cutting boards to test how practical they are to use, while at the same time researchers will demonstrate how the bacterial load in the pork cut on the cutting boards is reduced. Working alongside retailers in this way has proven effective, including to promote hand washing.

“Researchers guided me to wash my hands frequently while selling pork. I wash my hands with soap and clean water more frequently than before,” noted Nguyen Dang Chu, a pork retailer in Nhai Market, Hung Yen Province, adding that he is planning to introduce the practice to other retailers because it is effective, easy and cheap.

In abattoirs, the project has been testing the use of ozonized water, which is a strong disinfectant, tailored inox grids that raise the pork off the floor, and the application of good hygiene practices to reduce the contamination of carcasses.

Dr. Anna Okello, ACIAR Livestock Systems Research Program manager, said, “The SafePORK project interventions are timely, as there is an increased focus on the safety of food in informal markets due to Covid-19. Consequently, messages on simple, effective practices to improve food safety, as currently promoted by SafePORK, can have many positive benefits on other diseases circulating in informal markets in Vietnam.”

The project is funded by ACIAR and led by the International Livestock Research Institute, in partnership with the Hanoi University of Public Health, the Vietnam National University of Agriculture, Vietnam’s National Institute of Animal Sciences and the University of Sydney.

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