Consumers should select ground beef that’s bright red in color, such as in the picture above, as this is a verifiable sign of freshness. However, in Vietnam just about the only major supermarket chain that sells meat this color is the South Korean supermarket chain Lotte.
Chains like VinMart sell a dark gray-purple meat that has been dyed and treated with carbon dioxide and other chemicals. Vinmart store officials say their meat comes from Thailand, but of course that is not entirely true.
To be fair, VinMart store officials also say that beef is relatively new to the country as it is not part of the traditional Vietnamese diet and they are not clear on the proper handling techniques.
All of the employees I talked to expressed concern over the fact that the beef was not transported in refrigerated containers but was delivered unrefrigerated by motorbike and thought the practice was unsanitary.
Thailand does not produce enough beef to export and imports live cattle from Australia and New Zealand and therein lies the rub. Thailand has a bad reputation for a series of food fraud scandals dating back decades.
It hasn’t been that long ago, that Chinese and Thai businesses were caught selling rat and fox meat as beef and mutton. Altogether there were “382 cases of water-injected meat, fake mutton and beef, diseased meat, toxic and harmful meat products” that were confiscated, the Chinese public security ministry said on its website.
Nine hundred and four suspects were arrested with more than 20,000 tons of various types of fake or inferior meat products seized.
What Makes Ground Beef Red?
To get the eye-pleasing coloration, most fresh beef is sold in clear packages of oxygen- permeable film. If you live in Vietnam and the beef is not sold in this film, don’t buy it or if you already purchased it, throw it away.
If it is a dark purplish color, don’t buy it, or if you already have purchased it, throw it away.
My wife inadvertently bought a beef loin at VinMart several weeks ago and when she went to cook it all the fluid ran off and it was clearly fake “meat.” It appeared to be a cardboard like material with red dye, water and other chemicals added.
Clearly, the safest retailer to purchase beef or any other meat, poultry or fish and seafood for that matter in Vietnam is Lotte. The supermarket chain is revolutionizing food safety in the Southeast Asian country.
Except for a much more limited number of products, Lotte is probably as good as if not better than most western supermarkets when it comes to food safety and they seem to be always improving and training their staff.
On the other hand, markets such as VinMart and Big C, which is owned by a Thai company, are extremely sloppy when it comes to food safety. Those in the meat market don’t wear gloves or hair nets and routinely cut chicken, pork and beef using the same knives and work benches.
They also hire inexperienced staff and provide virtually no training.