Vietnamese pangasius fillets. (Photo: YouTube/SafeCatfish)
Government pressured into removing Vietnamese panga from school canteens
Tuesday, November 23, 2010, 16:10 (GMT + 9)
The Green Party of the Canaries has called upon the Ministry of Education of the Provincial Government to urgently withdraw Vietnamese pangasius (Pangasius hypophthalmus) from school canteens on the islands, just as the Basque Country has done recently.
According to the Green Party spokesman, Rafael Rodriguez, the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) discourages the consumption of fish from aquaculture of Vietnamese origin for the possible presence of pesticide residues and mercury.
The OCU denounced that out of the 23 panga samples that were tested, 4 of them contained trifluoralin, a herbicide banned in Europe, while in another 9 samples, there were high levels of mercury.
Green Party representatives were satisfied with the actions of the catering companies that supply school canteens in the Basque Country, which withdrew panga cultivated in Vietnam from the menus, after allegations made by the OCU.
However, Roberto Sabrido, president of the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition, said that "in order for the pangasius to arrive in Spain, they must go through border checkpoints where they are checked, and according to analytics that have been made, the products are within normal limits."
The representative of the Green Party also explained that they are denouncing the dangers of the use of this Vietnamese food in canteens of schools and kindergartens in the Canary Islands.
He recalled, for example, that in 2008 the European Commission (EC) launched an investigation after a complaint made by the Green Party, claiming that the fish contained pathogens which are harmful to ones health, such as Listeria monocytogenes and Vibrio cholerae, in certain instances according to analysis by the reference laboratory Anfaco-Cecopesca.
Vietnamese fish farms had also been critised a few weeks ago by Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson, who accused the industry of reducing "the workers to slavery" and to cultivate the species in polluted water.
As part of a conference on aquaculture held in the European Parliament in mid-November, Stevenson said: "The Mekong River is one of the most heavily polluted rivers on Earth. Factories along its banks daily pump thousands of tonnes of contaminants into its slow-flowing waters. As a result, the water in which pangasius is being farmed is teeming with bacteria and poisoned with industrial effluents including arsenic, mercury and DDT."
Representatives of the Findus Group and the Association of Producers and Exporters of Vietnamese Seafood (VASEP), strongly rejected the allegations.
Findus said that "the farms that grow pangasius and the processing plants follow very strict global standards," and that they "work closely with its suppliers to ensure good working conditions and practices."
Meanwhile, VASEP invited Stevenson MEP to visit aquaculture operations and the fishing industry in the Asian country to personally verify that their products are safe for consumption.
- 'Slave labour' used for pangasius exports undercuts European fish farmers
- Findus Group, Vietnam responds to MEP's allegations
By Silvina Corniola