Vietnam, with its reliance on unprocessed food and abundance of arable land, is a great place to get freshly grown food. It makes sense that the food sold here should be verifiably organic, however this is more easily said than done.
By definition, organic food is food that hasn’t been affected by chemicals during the growing process. can that even be done in Vietnam, one of the leading polluters of the world? And with the air quality so bad in HCMC, how far from the city should something be grown?
Image source: occupycorporatism.com
The air in HCMC is notoriously bad, among the worst in the world.
Bloomberg reported that due to pollution from HCMC and Hanoi, Vietnam sits near the bottom of Yale’s Environmental Performance Index for dirty air, at 170 out of 180 nations. Given environmental considerations, it’s little surprise that one of the biggest names in organic foods here in HCMC bases its growing operations in Dalat, located high in the mountains.
Chiara Squinzi of the HCMC-based health food company La Holista reports that there are multiple tiers of organic labelling within Vietnam. for example, Dalat-based Organik (Street 8, Thao Dien, D2), the self-proclaimed “leading organic food distributor”, uses three different definitions of “organic” for their food:
1. “Organik’s organic certification is European and has been obtained after proper sampling, testing and monitoring soil, water and produce for at least three years before certification and renewed every year provided standards are met,” she says. They also obtained HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point) certification for the processing area, also checked and renewed every three years.
2. Selected products are based on conventional farming. The difference is that the supplier farmers gear towards organic with no additional chemical inputs, but residues and drifts can be found.
Image source: organik.vn
3. They’re GAP certified. Good Agricultural Practices are voluntary audits that verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled and stored as safely as possible to minimise risks of microbial food safety hazards. International GAP and Vietnamese GAP are similar.
According to La Holista’s criteria, it looks like some of Organik’s goods are organic, and some are pseudo-organic. But at least it’s trying; just be sure to read the labels. If you’re looking for organic food a bit closer to home, you don’t have to look further than Dong Nai.
Our pick for the best safely grown food has to go to Organica. These entrepreneurs grow their food surprisingly close to HCMC, in Dong Nai province. Despite the proximity to the city, it has recently acquired European organic certification and, it appears, only sells its own food in three HCMC shops.
Image source: organicafranchising.blogspot.com
Three years of careful estate management has given its farms a micro-climate in which harmful pests are destroyed by friendly bugs, and the clean air and soil makes for perfectly organic food. This is no easy feat, so enjoy it!
Whether or not Vietnamese produce can ever be labelled “organic” by European standards, the increased efforts to make food safer and more healthy is definitely a trend rising rapidly in popularity. Besides Organica and Organik, plenty of other options have opened up for consumer hungry for healthier food options.
Image source: cooky.vn
Annam Gourmet Market (16-18 Hai Ba Trung, D1), Nam An Markets (street 21, Thao Dien, D2) and 5th Element (Unit 01-01, Vivo City, Nguyen Van Linh, D7) are all also worth seeking out if you’re keen to cook something healthy tonight.