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Comprehensive reform for food safety inspection

08:49 | 26/12/2021

VCN - According to current regulations on food safety inspection of imported goods, the reduction inspection method is calculated to reduce by 95-98%, but the implementation of regulations on reduction of inspections faced difficulties due to a lack of information.

Focal role of Customs in quality inspection, food safety inspection Focal role of Customs in quality inspection, food safety inspection
General Department of Vietnam Customs responded to Ho Chi Minh City Customs about 22,000 cans of milk General Department of Vietnam Customs responded to Ho Chi Minh City Customs about 22,000 cans of milk
Prepare resources to be ready for deploying new model of specialised inspection Prepare resources to be ready for deploying new model of specialised inspection
Comprehensive reform for food safety inspection
Professional activities at Customs Sub-Department of Hai Phong port area 1, Hai Phong Customs Department, November 2021. Photo: T.Binh

Customs authorities do not have enough basic information to determine the consignments that are eligible to apply the reduced inspection method. These inadequacies will be cleared up with the substantive application of the Scheme on reform of quality inspection and food safety inspection for imported goods.

Real situation

Although Decree 15/2018/ND-CP (hereinafter referred to as Decree 15) on food safety has a spirit of reforming specialized inspection, such as reducing import shipments subject to State inspection on food safety, applying the reduced inspection method, but the implementation process still has shortcomings.

According to calculations by the Ministry of Health, with the provisions of Decree 15, the number of imported shipments subject to food safety inspection will be reduced by 95-98%. In fact, the implementation of the regulations on reduced inspections as prescribed in Article 19 of Decree 15 faces many difficulties because the State inspection agencies for imported food designated by the ministries do not provide enough information about the goods to Customs.

The Customs authorities do not have enough basic information to determine that the consignments are eligible to apply the reduced inspection method according to Clause 1, Article 17 of Decree 15. Accordingly, at present, the consignments are subject to food safety inspection (except for those exempt from inspection) are still subject to inspection upon import.

According to current regulations, food safety inspection is applied to each imported consignment. Thus, with the same imported goods, each importer must carry out inspection procedures. In addition, there are regulations on recognition of goods produced from reputable and quality establishments but have not yet been implemented.

In Decree 15, goods manufactured in establishments applying one of the quality management systems GMP, HACCP, ISO 22000, IFS, BRC, FSSC 22000 or equivalent are applied the reduced inspection method. However, up to now, relevant ministries have not provided a list of goods produced in establishments applying one of these quality management systems or equivalent so that the Customs can have a basis to implement the scheme.

There is also an overlap in food safety inspections with quarantine. Currently, many items are subject to food safety inspection managed by the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Health, and subject to animal/plant quarantine under the management of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and subject to list of medicinal herbs managed by the Ministry of Health.

Finding directions for simple procedures

According to the Ministry of Finance, the above situation requires standardization and comprehensive reform of regulations on State inspection of food safety for imported goods in accordance with the provisions of the Law on Technical Standards and Regulations, the Law on Food Safety in the overall implementation of administrative procedures under the National Single Window (NSW), strong application of information technology to solve administrative procedures, and e-Government, especially as Vietnam steps up its participation in the industrial revolution 4.0 to facilitate trade and improve national competitiveness.

The draft Decree stipulating the management mechanism, methods, order and procedures for quality inspection and food safety inspection for imported goods (under consultation with ministries and branches) stipulates regulations on reforming food safety inspection procedures.

The goal is to inherit the reforms of the state inspection of food safety for imported goods in the direction of promoting the application of information technology, applying risk management, simplifying and automating processes and procedures for self-declaration of products, registering product announcements, inspecting food safety for imported goods, reducing contact points between enterprises and agencies and organizations in the direction that enterprises only register for the state inspection of food safety on the NSW, the authorities and organizations certify suitable inspections and notify on the NSW, the goods are cleared when the results are satisfactory, the State agencies inspect the observance of the law by subjects participating in the state inspection of food safety, including: inspection agencies, Customs offices, authorized testing establishments or establishments recognized in accordance with ISO 17025; cutting costs for carrying out administrative procedures, storage costs, and time for customs clearance of imported goods.

At the same time, creating the necessary environment and conditions for the socialization of state inspection of food safety; protecting domestic production, protecting the environment, public interests and health.

The draft Decree stipulates that the procedures for self-declaration of products and registration of product announcements are simplified, importers only have to complete them for goods imported for the first time on the National Single Window Portal.

Goods that have been granted product self-declaration codes may apply normal inspection and reduced inspection methods. Goods that have been granted a registration number of the product announcement are exempt from inspection.

When submitting an application for food safety inspection in NSW, enterprises can choose a designated or recognized testing facility to test goods subject to sampling for testing.

The draft Decree also cuts and simplifies inspection registration documents, specifically: removing the packing list; removing the requirement that documents be legalized. For goods subject to the reduced inspection method, the importer only declares the product self-declaration code on the customs declaration, not having to submit an inspection registration dossier.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the full implementation of administrative procedures in NSW would help the system go paperless; the receipt and checks of the dossier, feedback, code issuance would be done automatically; organizations and individuals do not have to submit their dossiers directly at the inspection agency; the inspection agency would process them on the basis of the application submitted on the Portal.

This contributes to reducing travel costs, costs of administrative procedures, storage and yard costs, and quick processing of procedures, limiting contact between inspection agencies and enterprises.

By N.Linh/ Binh Minh