Excessive heavy metal residues found in imported Vietnamese tuna

Published on
October 28, 2016

Vietnam’s National Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries Quality Assurance Department (NAFIQAD) has been warned by the European Commission’s (EC’s) Directorate General for Health and Food Safety that excessive heavy metal residues have been detected in tuna imports from that country.

Checks by the directorate’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) found that 11 batches of seafood (mostly tuna) products exported to the European Union from Vietnam between January and September contained heavy metal residues that exceeded permissible limits.

A NAFIQAD official, who did not wish to be identified, told Vietnam News: “The batches had heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury over the maximum permissible limits.”

NAFIQAD’s director, Nguyen Nhu Tiep, said the number of batches detected with excessive heavy metal residues had gone up since 24 May when EU authorities directed member states to check heavy metal residues in Vietnamese seafood products.

NAFIQAD has instructed Vietnamese seafood processors to review their QC programs and check heavy metal residues in their products. It said companies must particularly inspect raw material imported for processing in the four coastal provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue.

NAFIQAD also instructed its inspection centers across the country to tighten up their inspection and certification processes for seafood to be exported and prioritise checks for heavy metal residues.

Vietnamese tuna exports have increased this year after three years of declines, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and producers (VASEP). In the first eight months of this year, the value of Vietnamese tuna exports rose by 2.1 percent over last year to USD 309.8 million (EUR 281.6 million).

There has been a rise in overseas sales every month since February, the association said.

Fresh and frozen tuna accounted for 58.3 percent of exports, while processed tuna at 41.7 percent was down from 45.6 percent in 2015. The bulk (88.2 percent) of exports went to the USA, the EU, ASEAN countries, Israel, Japan, Canada and Mexico.

Exports to China increased by a massive 68.5 percent, to ASEAN countries they increased by 26.7 percent and to Israel by 18 percent. Meanwhile, exports to the EU declined by 11.5 percent.

Both cadmium and mercury are toxic if ingested in sufficient quantities. The negative effects of cadmium, which is toxic even at low levels, are numerous and can impact nearly all systems in the body, including cardiovascular, reproductive, the kidneys, eyes and even the brain.

The toxic effects of mercury include damage to the brain, kidneys and lungs. Pregnant women have been advised to avoid eating fish and shellfish containing higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system.

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