“Banh mi” in Vietnam 



Recently, on Oct. 20th 2015, there was a Salmonella outbreak in the Quang Binh province, which located in the north- central coast of Vietnam. The outbreak affected 224 local people, who showed symptoms such as stomach ache, vomiting, fever and diarrhea. The Salmonella bacteria were found in “Banh mi” supplied by the “Vuong Tien Thanh Bakery”. “Banh mi” is a Vietnamese snack introduce by the French during the Colonial Period. It consisted of a baguette, usually filled with variety of meats, pickled vegetables and chili peppers.


According to the Quang Binh province Hygiene and Food Safety department, samples taken from the bakery and the contents of the victims’ stomach both tested positive for the bacteria Salmonella. Most of the consumer infected with Salmonella developed symptoms within 72 hours and rushed to the local hospital. This was the biggest case of food poisoning seen in the province.


About a week prior to the detection of Salmonella bacteria in “Banh mi”, the bakery had supplied bread to “Tan Phat Sport Company”. 20 of the worker. who consumed the bread suffered from vomiting and diarrhea.  “Vuong Tien Thanh Bakery” had five branches, which 3 were suspended after the incident.


A little background in Vietnamese food culture and the snack food item “Banh mi”. “Banh mi” from the journal article “An Outbreak of Foodborne Salmonellosis Linked to Bread Takeaway Shop in Ben Tre City, Vietnam” was referred as stuff bread. In the article it was mention that in 2013 media reported multiple incidents where people had been hospitalized with acute gastroenteritis due to consumption of stuffed bread. They found that “Banh mi” usually included the ingredients pork bologna, pork pate, salted and dried pork and raw egg mayonnaise. Many of these items were found to have Salmonella species as well as E. coli growing.  Most of the stuff breads were brought from street food stalls and vendors. At these vendors poor hygiene was found: some had cooked food and raw food place very close together, some had cooked food kept at room temperature for long period of time.


Vietnam is a lower middle income country, where development and industrialization are still taken place. The food culture there is still very traditional, which comprised of traditional foods with traditional methods of making the food. Traditional practices of preparing the food are not necessary food safe or hygienic. Vietnam is also one of the Asian countries known for its delicious and inexpensive street food. To regulate and improve food safety laws for street food vendors in Vietnam, in 2011 laws were passed providing guidelines on operating street food stalls.


The guidelines are:street-food-vendor

  1. Stall must be away from polluted place.
  2. Clean water must be used to cook and clean kitchen utensils
  3. Origin of the produce used to make food must be clear
  4. Vendors must have a waste collection system in place
  5. Vendors can only make use of a specific list of additives


Many other Asian countries are also known for the inexpensive and impressive variety street foods. What would be your opinion on regulation on street food? How can we blend traditional practices with modern implications?


Thank you so much for your time.

Emily L. 


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