Persistent clean-dirty “battle”

Persistent clean-dirty “battle”

Just walking around any street in the inner city or suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City, if someone wants to have statistics of current coffee shops, it is impossible to count them.

The coffee market is full of proud domestic and foreign coffee brands. Among them are Trung Nguyen, Highlands, Phuc Long, Starbucks, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Gloria Jean Coffee, Milano and some other names.

However, the market has countless other selling points that grow like mushrooms after the rain with all kinds of names and no names… refreshment coffee, street coffee, football coffee, “internet” coffee, “take away” coffee, “motorcycle” coffee… served at public places such as schools, hospitals, construction sites. Who knows where these coffee shops come from.

There have been too many detections and warnings about the production and sale of dirty or fake coffee. This type of coffee is made with ingredients not from coffee beans but from corn, soybean, roasted areca nut, mixed with caramelized sugar, to create a sweet smell, quinine to create a bitter taste, Carboxymethiylcellulose (CMC) to create a thick consistency… Experts warn these are substances that can cause many dangerous diseases for consumers. This type of “coffee” is very cheap, even half the price of real coffee.

More than 3 years ago, the Ministry of Health issued a circular “stipulating food safety conditions for food service and street food businesses”, which clearly states that food ingredients, food additives, prepackaged foods must have invoices and documents proving the clear origin, and food additives in the list of food additives permitted for use issued by the Ministry of Health. But concerns about additives still remain.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the market management agencies are trying to eliminate the distribution lines of chemicals, flavoring ingredients of unknown origin and not allowed to be used for coffee production and processing. However, the issue here still lies with the seller. Just a few sets of tables and chairs, one or two umbrella, a kettle of boiling water, a few coffee filters, a few cups can be turned into a café shop. That coffee shop can bring income to a small family. Many sellers do not care about the origin of the coffee they sell to consumers, as long as the price is cheap.

There is an opinion that the market is in need of serious studies from the coffee industry to know how much coffee each Vietnamese person consumes annually, thereby assuming the volume of dirty coffee produced and circulated. Only then can we see the damage caused by dirty coffee to the economy and the health sector in the future.

As long as the coffee industry has not quantified how much coffee is consumed, the war on dirty coffee has only just begun.

Nguyễn Quang Bình, SGTThị 11-7-2016

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