Government and International Relations Honors Papers

Document Type

Honors Paper


William Frasure

Publication Date



Vietnamese people frequently express fear about commercially available food in their country. What accounts for these fears and what is the Government of Vietnam doing to respond to these fears? That is the puzzle this thesis aims to solve.

Traditional Vietnamese food consumption patterns are increasingly burdened by food safety challenges accompanying Vietnam’s transition to a market-oriented economy. An already weak food safety regulatory system is forced to navigate a changing society, political climate, economy, and international market.

This public policy study is based on survey research conducted in Vietnam, personal interviews with vendors, consumers, government officials, NGO representatives and extensive research into scholarly literature and reports by international agencies and the Vietnamese government. It details the various food safety issues which plague the food sector of the Vietnamese economy and provides concrete evidence which confirms the Vietnamese people’s fear of their food system. Four case studies -- supermarkets and convenience stores; fruits and vegetables; meat; and seafood -- provide an overview of the food industry and its accompanying regulations in order to demonstrate a lack of enforcement across the entire food system. This thesis argues that the Vietnamese government has failed to adequately address food safety matters.

Three overarching factors are identified which explain this regulatory failure: the government’s obsession with maintaining political legitimacy, corruption, and a highly fragmented regulatory structure. These factors must be viewed in the context of the state’s priorities, which are to continue on the current trajectory of economic growth and to greatly shrink the informal food economy in an effort to adopt a more modern food sector which emulates Western standards. This thesis is unique because it explores food safety from a public policy perspective, as opposed to the conventional scientific perspective. It provides an original and comprehensive overview of food safety policy in Vietnam and evaluates the Vietnamese political system in light of these policies. The thesis concludes with significant policy recommendations.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.