Russin & Vecchi, International Legal Counsellors have prepared a memo that compares, analyzes and discusses the Food Law in Vietnam.
Click here to download Food Law in Vietnam, by Russin & Vecchi (March 2019).
Understanding Vietnamese laws and regulations concerning food can be a challenge. The confusion results from the lack of a unified food law. Instead, the government relies primarily on laws which regulate the quality of goods in general. There are also specific regulations that apply these laws to food products. This means that there are two sets of regulations, one covering goods in general, and the other covering food products, and they often overlap.
A discussion of Vietnamese food law must begin with a discussion of the management of the quality of goods. The major law on the subject is the Law on the Quality of Products and Goods. This Law states that “he State shall implement a uniform system to control the quality of goods.”1 However, “in cases where international treaties to which the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a party contain provisions which differ from the provisions of the Law, the provisions of such international treaties shall prevail.”
The Law on the Quality of Products and Goods came into effect on 1 July 2008 and replaces the Ordinance on the Quality of Goods. The Law provides that manufacturers and traders must take responsibility for the quality of the goods or products that they manufacture or trade in order to ensure safety for humans, animals, plants, property and the environment, and to enhance the productivity, quality and competitiveness of Vietnamese goods and products.
The Ordinance on the Hygiene and Safety of Foods, which came into force on 1 November 2003, deals specifically with some aspects of food. In particular, this Ordinance details provisions on “securing food hygiene and safety in the process of food production and sale; preventing and overcoming food poisoning and diseases which are spread through foods.”
In language similar to the Law on the Quality of Products and Goods, the Ordinance on the Hygiene and Safety of Foods states that:
All Vietnamese organizations, households and individuals as well as foreign individuals and organizations that produce and trade in foods within the territory of Vietnam are subject to Vietnamese law. In cases where international treaties to which the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a party, contain provisions which differ from the provisions of the Ordinance, the provisions of such international treaties shall apply.
These two legal documents give the Ministry of Science and Technology (“MOST”) overall responsibility for the quality of goods, including foods. Specific responsibility for the hygiene and safety of foods, however, is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health (“MOH”). Before the enactment of the Law on the Quality of Products and Goods, the Government issued Decree 179/2004/ND-CP dated 21 October 2004 (“Decree 179”) on state management of the quality of products and goods. Decree 179 details the responsibility of the MOST and of certain other ministries and branches with respect to the quality of goods. The MOH is fully responsible for the safety and hygiene of foods. However, in case of overlapping responsibilities between these two ministries, MOST is responsible to report to the Prime Minister in order to receive a final decision. Decree 179 was promulgated to implement the now abrogated Ordinance on the Quality of Goods. While a new decree to implement the Law on the Quality of Products and Goods and to replace Decree 179 is not yet in place, such provisions of Decree 179 that are not contrary to the Law on the Quality of Products and Goods remain applicable.