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Moving on to new straw men and issues we cannot resolve
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mark_in_saigon



Joined: 20 Sep 2009
Posts: 791

PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 2:45 am    Post subject: Copied from Guiza on another thread Reply with quote

Guiza said (on the 40+ hour thread):

Quote:
It's a good read this thread.

Just in response to the food discussion, since I got here there have been some shocking stories about produce being sold here. A friend of a friend (of my grandmother's auntie ha) suddenly died after complaining of stomach cramps that lasted for days. She died of something that was in her stomach that could not digest causing too much damage.

To be fair, that's hardly the sort of thing you're going to give much creedence to online, but these were all published last year:

http://tuoitrenews.vn/business/11723/75-of-vietnamese-pho-samples-found-toxic-food-tests

"The center said the samples were randomly taken from nine food selling facilities, including three supermarkets (Co.op Mart Cong Quynh, Maximark Cong Hoa, and Big C Hoang Van Thu), five markets (Pham Van Hai, Ben Thanh, Tan Son Nhat, Go Vap, and Ba Chieu), and a grocery in Tan Binh District."

http://tuoitrenews.vn/city-diary/12056/food-safety-crisis-in-vietnam

http://www.beveragedaily.com/Regulation-Safety/Heineken-absolutely-on-top-of-fake-beer-threat-after-Vietnam-gang-bust

There's just no control over anything in food.

I doubt these things would kill you within a week but spending a decade here eating noodles for dinner... seems like you are putting your insides through some turmoil that will probably rear it's ugly head one day or another.
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mark_in_saigon



Joined: 20 Sep 2009
Posts: 791

PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 3:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Guiza,

On that death, did anyone make a call on the cause of death? I am thinking that people die here for various reasons and as long as there is not a bullet hole, there is no need for analysis or follow up.

On your links, that first story is very scary indeed. I am surprised that educated westerners do not know this just by living here though. One day of life here is all the proof anyone really needs. A look in the canals, a look at the restaurants, a few transactions in District 1, I got the picture. You do not need laboratory backed product safety tests to see how these guys operate, and trying to get things done properly always leads us back to square 1.

The second story, the guy seems well meaning, but I am surprised he did not discuss the problem of how meat sits at room temperatures all day long. As a food service professional, that should have jumped out at him, the issue deserves a lot more exposure.

The third story seems quite amusing to me. So here we have guys trying to make a small profit mixing Heineken and local beers. Of course, not what we want, but how dangerous is that? Oh, they did not wash their hands? God, who does over here? Especially amusing was how the authorities used the word "vigilant" in their response. Yeah, next time, they will be more vigilant in not employing casual workers who may bring in cameras.

Everyone knows that this kind of thing is going on all over VN, in any field that one can profit in. Food/beverage just happens to matter to us because it is more likely to harm us. But basically, most people do not care about the issue most of the time, they certainly like buying their fake Guccis or whatever, and who doesn't?
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Guiza



Joined: 20 May 2011
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 3:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The girl died - I was told - from having eaten noodles that were fake, formed into a ball in her stomach and went from a stomach ache to a hospital bed over the course of a week or so. If she had not taken so long to see a doctor they would've been able to diagnose her and get it out or treat her somehow. So I'm not really sure what the cause of death was apart from having a ball of plastic stuck in her stomach for too long.

I was mostly shocked by fact that I sometimes shop in one of the supermarkets they mention - I have eaten that muck and here was the cold hard proof. Really drove it home. You think it's safer in a packet or from a supermarket but evidently not. Who or what can you trust to consider the customers health if you can't trust the vendor and any food safety standards agency that may or may not exist is probably utterly useless or turning a blind eye.

It's that mentality that vendors are prepared to sell toxic products or bleached noodles and that it's somehow not their responsibility to care about the consequences. They'd rather save an extra 2 thousand dong on that bowl of pho.

Yeah I mean the last story isn't shocking - to be honest I get tired of the taste of straight up heineken that I wouldn't mind some kind of blended alternative for a night. The process for those guys must have been so laborious to hardly make it worth it I imagine.

However it does speak again of the fact that people are prepared to mess with food in such ways. These stories are probably just the tip of the iceberg.

I guess leaving chunks of meat hanging in the sun all afternoon is more of a hygiene problem. Surprisingly this is something that I've never been that bothered by here. What can I say, I love a banh mi too much maybe. As I've never gotten that sick here from food - touch wood - I suppose I just brushed over this problem as not affecting me that much.

You can't really compare a fake handbag or i phone, with toxic food. Fake luxury items are what they are and everyone knows it. My "Chinese" I phone isn't going to give me stomach cramps or bleach my stomach lining.

When people start messing with my food to make extra profit to detriment of my organs, it gets pretty ugly and personal.

No idea what is being done to stop it - probably nothing. Or how widespread these issues are.
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mark_in_saigon



Joined: 20 Sep 2009
Posts: 791

PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 5:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, not exactly comparing them, but saying it is part and parcel of the same problem. The system that allows people to sell fake and pirated goods is the same system that will allow the food supply to be unregulated. You have to have meaningful changes in the entire business system or it is just whack a mole.

What is interesting to me is that the lack of regulation is what makes things so inexpensive, and also part of why this place is so appealing. But it damn sure has its dark side. Wish my country could lighten up on the Micky Mouse regulations that make everything so damned expensive. You cannot open a restaurant over there without risking an amount that you could retire on. Interesting story on some little girl getting busted selling cupcakes or something. Our cold hearted govt. Everyone loved her, so sweet, young entrepreneur, whatever, but of course the lemonade stand is actually not legal, and it should not be, unless you let the adults open their own businesses without all these handicapped bathrooms and vent a hoods and insurance and God knows what all that drives the costs thru the roof.

Anyway, that gets back to what I said earlier that kinda set off this recent discussion. Living here may take years off your life, so you may be better off coming over when you do not have that many years to lose. Older guys may just die a natural death, but if you live here for a long time it has a better chance of getting you.

Quote:
I was mostly shocked by fact that I sometimes shop in one of the supermarkets they mention - I have eaten that muck and here was the cold hard proof. Really drove it home. You think it's safer in a packet or from a supermarket but evidently not. Who or what can you trust ...

It's that mentality that vendors are prepared to sell toxic products ...They'd rather save an extra 2 thousand dong on that bowl of pho.

I wouldn't mind some kind of blended alternative for a night. The process for those guys must have been so laborious to hardly make it worth it I imagine.

However it does speak again of the fact that people are prepared to mess with food in such ways. These stories are probably just the tip of the iceberg.


Totally agree with every bit of this.
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mark_in_saigon



Joined: 20 Sep 2009
Posts: 791

PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pretty easy to find a story every week on these general topics.


http://www.thanhniennews.com/index/pages/20140126-vietnam-dirty-energy-habits-hard-to-kick-getting-worse.aspx

From this year, Vietnam is set to become a net importer of coal with Indonesia and possibly Australia as likely suppliers. Behind China, India and Turkey, Vietnam has the largest number of coal plants proposed out of any country in the world, with EVN outlining plans to build a further 17 large coal-fired power stations by 2020.

Such a scenario portends a grim economic and environmental picture for Vietnam.

Importing coal is an incredibly expensive, risky and uncertain way to power an economy, experts say. International coal prices are far higher than domestically produced coal and are subject to the power of just a handful of large producing nations, they say.

To make matters worse, “coal for power production is indeed the worst of all fossil fuels, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions that cause global climate change and other pollutants, including the effects of mining, transport and use in large power plants on local environments,” UNDP’s Neefjes said.

Numerous studies have documented the serious health impacts from coal fired power stations to nearby communities worldwide. Air pollution from coal kills 13,000 people every year in the US, 22,000 in the EU, and 100,000 in India, according to studies released by international environmental groups.
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VietCanada



Joined: 30 Nov 2010
Posts: 305

PostPosted: Tue Feb 11, 2014 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kurtz wrote:
Do you guys leap out of bed and scream "Good morning Vietnam!" and prepare for some hard early morning exercise?or grit your teeth and do a little walk before the sun gets too hot which intensifies the pollution? In short, do you feel healthy in Vietnam?

Personally, I felt like a bag of shite which was partially due to the previous evening's bia hoi and also the environment. Whenever I visited home, I had so much more energy. The air was clean and I felt good. I recall expat women in Hanoi complaining that their hair was scraggly from the water and many people complained about chest infections. Whether it takes years off your life is one thing, what was important to me was how I felt every day.


I now have a craving to do this. TY Mr. Kurtz.
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I'm With Stupid



Joined: 03 Sep 2010
Posts: 380

PostPosted: Wed Feb 12, 2014 7:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mark_in_saigon wrote:
What is interesting to me is that the lack of regulation is what makes things so inexpensive, and also part of why this place is so appealing. But it damn sure has its dark side. Wish my country could lighten up on the Micky Mouse regulations that make everything so damned expensive. You cannot open a restaurant over there without risking an amount that you could retire on. Interesting story on some little girl getting busted selling cupcakes or something. Our cold hearted govt. Everyone loved her, so sweet, young entrepreneur, whatever, but of course the lemonade stand is actually not legal, and it should not be, unless you let the adults open their own businesses without all these handicapped bathrooms and vent a hoods and insurance and God knows what all that drives the costs thru the roof.

Restaurants are expensive in the West because of labour costs, not because of regulations. You might be able to open up a business here with little in the way of enforced regulations (I suspect the actual list regulations is longer than A Song of Ice and Fire - almost all street sellers are operating illegally, for example). But how long before the vultures start circling and you're required to start making little donations to various causes? Opening a business in the West is a far more stable thing. You know how much you're going to be paying in tax, insurance, etc, and can plan for it. Over here, you have no idea until the local police knock on your door looking for coffee money, or you lose an entire day's takings because your business is closed without warning. It seems to me that in Vietnam, we get all of the costs associated with regulations, with none of the benefits. The health inspector still has to be paid, but he doesn't actually inspect anything.
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mark_in_saigon



Joined: 20 Sep 2009
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 12, 2014 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know a bit about restaurants, having owned a couple of them over the years. I can tell you that the amount of money required to open a restaurant over there that has any chance of success is now going to be close to 100 grand. Real restaurants that everyone recognizes (franchises) would likely be closer to a million. Those have a decent chance of success. Over here, folks can open up for a grand or so. Depends on what you call a restaurant. A friend and her trained cook bf opened a deal up in Nha Trang for a couple of hundred bucks, they had a good trade going because of the quality of the food. Just need this little portable wagon thing and some plastic chairs and tables. They even swap that stuff back and forth, one guy does it in the day, another in the night. Different business, same equipment.

Maybe the biggest issue is the aspect of zoning. Like, imagine if you could open a restaurant out of your home, how much cheaper that would be. I used to have a healthy catering business when my lease expired on my last one. If I could have just done all that stuff out of my home (which I could have, but could not legally have), then I could have held the catering part of my business, which was the most profitable part. Over here, they can prepare and sell food off a bicycle, and certainly out of a home. Just move the family upstairs, away you go. In the west, if you are not in a legal commercial area in a legal building with legal parking, ventahoods, insurance, on and on and on, forget it, it is not going to happen. Regulations equal costs. If I could have catered out of my house (as some bandit operators do), it would have been golden. But it aint legal, as little miss cupcake found out.

The payoff money is another discussion, and an interesting one for sure. But, point is, the barriers to actually opening a small business like that are much lower here, as well as the costs. The payoffs are another story, but they do seem to be like a tax, the more you earn the more you are expected to cough up, but they do not represent this huge upfront expense that would make OPENING a restaurant especially expensive.

On the cost structure, in the U.S. food is about 35%, labor about the same, depends on the nature of the restaurant of course.

Here, labor is a much lower cost in dollar terms and percentage terms. So when you buy a meal here, closer to 75% goes to food costs, which makes it a lot more sensible to eat out.

If you eliminate the business and labor costs (prepare your food at home both here and in the west), I find VN food to be less expensive. But it certainly depends on what is on the menu too, over here, people look on a cheap hamburger as a gourmet item, and the prices are much higher than you would expect back home for some western items.

At this time, beverage costs are markedly lower, and especially beer/booze in restaurants, mainly because of the lower taxes, but also less overhead costs and labor costs. Again, you put this stuff in the right/wrong venue, prices can be crazy. They charge 5 bucks for a bottle of water at the Sheraton, you can get that same water for 25 cents or so at the grocery store.
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montblanc20



Joined: 21 Jul 2013
Posts: 53

PostPosted: Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://vietnamnews.vn/society/251631/kindergartens-banned-from-teaching-foreign-languages.html

Is this for real? Or is it just something that's not going to be enforced? For all the faults of the h*gwan system in K*rea, those young kids could speak ok English. But maybe starting a little later is ok. Maybe it isn't necessary to be like K*rea.
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mark_in_saigon



Joined: 20 Sep 2009
Posts: 791

PostPosted: Fri Feb 28, 2014 2:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They have been talking about that a bit. My belief on rules is this: whatever the rule's advertised intent is, consider that the reality may be something else.

Those who violate the law will be strictly dealt with, the ministry added

Oh, I am sure they are all quaking in their boots at that one. Yes, every day on the street I see how strictly those who violate traffic laws are dealt with.
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mark_in_saigon



Joined: 20 Sep 2009
Posts: 791

PostPosted: Fri Feb 28, 2014 3:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://vietnamnews.vn/society/251632/16-tonnes-of-rotten-meat-seized.html

Here is a little story on spoiled meat being moved around. They have their tricks on removing the bad taste. All the VN know about this, but perhaps some of us do not.

The VN have been eating questionable food all their lives, their systems are strong, like a hyena's. They can deal with it. Always funny to see guys (women too) walking along, suddenly puke on the sidewalk, then keep going like nothing happened. Only the strong survive.
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