Since Vietnamese value foreign made formula above domestic products, the imports through unofficial channels have been selling well in Vietnam.
In principle, the Ministry of Health only examines the imports through official channels and gives certificates on the products’ quality. This means that the quality of the imports through unofficial channels has been left “open.”
At the milk shops on Tay Son, Hang Buom, Cau Giay and Thai Ha streets in Hanoi, tens of milk products have been available, introduced as the foreign products carried to Vietnam across the borders by the travelers or those entering Vietnam. The products bear different brands from Japan, South Korea, Australia, Russia, Germany, the US and Netherlands.
Formula products have been distributed through large distribution networks. Housewives not only have to come to buy products at shops, but can also place orders online and get deliveries at any time they want.
The owner of a milk shop on Hang Buom Street said assuredly that the products available there are all the real ones carried to Vietnam by the air stewardesses. The owner of a shop on Lang Road also said the same thing about the origin of the products.
A paradox exists that the products imported through official channels are always cheaper than the products imported through unofficial channels, even though the state management agencies only grant certificates on the quality of the officially imported goods.
A box of Meiji powder milk, imported through official channels is now sold at VND420,000-470,000. Meanwhile, the same product “carried to Vietnam by air stewardesses” as introduced by the sellers, is priced at VNd640,000-666,000.
“The products are better and more expensive because they are made in accordance with the standards designed for foreign children,” the owner of the shop on Hang Buom Street said.
Hoa, a mother in Nghia Tan residential quarter in Hanoi, said she has been advised not to use the products imported through official channels, because the products are made in accordance with Vietnamese standards.
She also admitted that she feeds the child with the products simply because the sellers said the products are better, while she herself lack information about the issue. Meanwhile, there is no sub-label in Vietnamese on the products; therefore, Hoa cannot read the information about the nutrients and about how to use the formula.
Vuong Ngoc Tuan, Deputy Secretary General of the Vietnam Consumer Protection, said that formula products have not been well controlled.
However, he admitted that it’s not easy to control the market where the products are from different sources. “Vietnamese always favor foreign products. Therefore, they sometimes accidentally buy low quality formula, because it’s unclear about the quality of the products, once their quality is not supervised by the state management agencies,” Tuan said.
Kieu Dinh Canh, a high ranking official of the Hanoi Market Management Sub-department, has promised to tighten the control over the formula market after local newspapers continuously reported the problems in import products. However, Canh said the state management agency can only control domestic products or the products imported through official channels.
“The credulity of Vietnamese consumers has made the formula market chaotic,” he commented.