Authorities have stepped up inspection of food sold at wholesale markets to ensure safety during the festival, he said.

HCM City has exhorted businesses to ensure food safety, increase supply of goods and keep prices steady during the Tet (Lunar New Year) festive season in mid-February.

Pham Khanh Phong Lan, head of the city Food Safety Management Board, said the board would closely monitor food production, processing, distribution, and import-export establishments.

This year it plans to set up 20 teams of inspectors to check 8,187 establishments besides carrying out surprise inspections of those suspected of violating safety and hygiene regulations.

A delegation from the People's Council’s Social and Cultural Committee will inspect food and agricultural products at wholesale markets such as Binh Dien, Binh Tay and Binh Tien.

Cao Van Thanh, deputy head of the Binh Tay Wholesale Market management, said the market administration is seeking to raise tenants’ awareness of food safety and hygiene requirements.

Those inspector teams have already inspected the Hoc Mon Wholesale Market in the namesake district and some markets in District 11.

Le Van Tien, deputy director of the Hoc Mon Market Management and Trade Company, said his market was one of the first two in the city to pilot a safe food model.

“Supervision of the quality of food products is done regularly and diligently.”

The city People’s Committee has also called on businesses participating in the annual price stabilisation programme to increase supply this year.

Those taking part help keep the prices of 10 groups of items steady, including rice, instant and dried noodles, RE and RS sugars, cooking oil, cattle meat, poultry meat, poultry eggs, processed foods, vegetables, seafood, and spices.

Their prices are 5-10 percent lower than market rates.

Saigon Co.op’s multiple retail chains have already begun Tet sales so that customers can buy most of the items now and buy only fresh produce close to the New Year, which falls in mid-February.

Nguyen Vu Toan, deputy general director of Saigon Co.op, said they have stockpiled nearly 4.9 trillion VND (212.3 million USD) worth of goods for Tet, a 20 percent increase from last year. The co-operative would increase quality inspections of its supermarkets 10-fold over normal months, he added.

Saigon Trading Group (Satra) is sourcing over 2.4 tonnes of items like rice, processed foodstuff and pork for supply during Tet, a 63 percent increase over a normal month.

Nguyen Phuc Khoa, its deputy general director, said the company pays close attention to food safety and origin.

Pork prices have stabilised due to the country’s efforts to increase the number pigs and import frozen pork, and Satra and its subsidiaries would supply a large number of new products such as seasoned meat and spring rolls during Tet, he said.

Retailers plan to increase the number of cash counters and take other steps to ensure convenience and safety for customers during the peak shopping season.

They will also offer home delivery and sell ancestral offering packs, which used to be traditionally prepared at home during Tet.

They will make sales trips to remote areas.

Source: VNA