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Food Anxiety in Globalising Vietnam

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... About 11 per cent of the population are considered undernourished and 2 per cent 'severely food insecure', and as usual the poorer mountainous regions and ethnic minorities are overrepresented in these statistics (Raneri et al., 2019: 4). However, alongside prevailing undernutrition in some areas, obesity is on the rise in others, and the food challenges Vietnam are facing today increasingly take form of food safety and overnutrition (see contributions in Ehlert & Faltmann, 2019). ...
... Never in history has the average Vietnamese consumer had similar access to food, both in terms of quantity and variety. Yet worries about food safety are a defining part of contemporary Vietnam (Ehlert & Faltmann, 2019), and many are worried about the health effects of their diets. I have elsewhere explained how middle-class consumers negotiate food transformations through adopting different strategies to food practices, such as trying to limit the impact of foreign fast-food chains on the diets of their children or determining the safety of vegetables at local markets by looks and smell. ...
Chapter
The economic reforms have brought about dramatic food transformations in Vietnam. This chapter approaches these and give special attention to the increasing prevalence of eating out and the relationship between foodscapes and food practices. The chapter shows how changing foodscapes do not necessarily translate into entirely new ways of eating. Instead, alongside dramatic changes, continuity is ensured by the organizing role played by general understandings in the form of food cultures. Thus, countering popular claims about ongoing culinary homogenisation, although globalisation has made obvious impacts on food in Vietnam, food practices remain far from ‘Western’.
... It also moves power and profit from small-scale vendors to large corporations and domestic and regional capital. Interestingly, and somewhat ironically, these corporations are able to benefit from a series of food scandals and scares which has made food safety a main concern among consumers in both countries (see Ehlert & Faltmann, 2019). This trend is further strengthened by the Covid-19 pandemic. ...
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This chapter takes the growth of the ‘global consumer class’ as a starting point and argues that a broader research agenda to make sense of consumption among new middle classes is needed. Specifically, the chapter argues that such an agenda needs to approach changing consumption patterns as the outcome of both large-scale societal transformations and local-scale changes in how people carry out mundane activities. The chapter is influenced by social practice theories but argues for combining this with a direct study of economic systems. However, practice approaches have been labelled as so far unable or even ill-suited for studying the political economy of consumption. The chapter engages with this critique and suggests ways forward, focusing in particular on the fundamentally structuring role that capitalism has on consumption patterns. This is illustrated with the case of the radical changes in consumption patterns in China and Vietnam in the past decades, after both countries embarked on market reforms. The dramatic consumption booms these countries have seen under communist regimes, traditionally highly sceptical towards a wide range of consumer goods, represent an excellent case for discussing the conditioning effects of the political-economic context on consumption patterns.
... The Vietnamese government is striving towards a goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2035 (World Bank and Ministry of Planning and Investment of Vietnam 2016). This plan includes increasing Vietnam's offshore fishing fleet for even greater fishing capacity, in part to reduce the strain on nearshore and inshore fisheries (Ehlert and Faltmann 2018;Harper and Sumaila 2019; but also in response to tensions over disputed maritime territory, particularly with China (Roszko 2020). The impetus for an expansive fisheries sector in the country is not just internal -France and the US have historically pressured Vietnam to intensify fishery production (Butcher 2004;Hayton 2014). ...
Article
Vietnam’s offshore fishing industry remains a space dominated by men, with fish work being tied to notions of what it means to be a man. This paper uses interviews data and participant observation to assess the ways in which masculinities shape and are shaped by labour relations in offshore fishing in Southern Vietnam. Findings show that labour relations are maintained through an emphasis on the abilities of men to do difficult physical work, behavioural expectations associated with masculine norms, and a homosocial bonding culture at sea, in addition to a bonding culture on land that involves drinking and women as entertainment. Multiple masculinities are identified with varying degrees of fluidity as informed especially by class and with dynamics differing at sea versus on land. In a context of fish stock decline and international pressure for strict fisheries reform, efforts to sustain an offshore fishing workforce rely, in part, on the reproduction of a particular local hierarchy of masculinities.
... In these studies, the "organic" attribute was often briefly described as "not using genetically modified organisms and synthetical chemicals in cultivation". Only one study, by using a choice experiment, assessed Vietnamese consumers' willingness to pay for PGS organic certification [21] as this certification is prevalent in Hanoi and the north of Vietnam [30]. Even though produce with European (EU) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic certifications are increasingly consumed in Vietnam, no Vietnamese consumer studies for these certifications were conducted to the best of our knowledge. ...
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The growing concern for food safety and quality motivates governments and private sectors to improve consumers’ confidence in food systems, such as through adopting certifications and traceability systems. The recent emergence of diverse food labelling schemes and the turbulence in food systems in emerging countries have sparked questions about consumers’ valuation of such labels. Nonetheless, little is known on how the familiarity with, trust in and knowledge of these food labelling schemes affect consumers’ willingness to pay for labelling schemes in emerging market contexts. This study aims to address these literature gaps by investigating consumers’ valuation of existing certifications, branding and traceability labelling schemes in Vietnam. A face-to-face survey was conducted, including a discrete choice experiment on water spinach in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The findings indicated that Vietnamese consumers are generally willing to pay price premia for food labelling schemes, such as VietGAP certification, EU and USDA organic certifications, private branding and traceable Quick Response (QR) coding. While familiarity and understanding had no significant impact on Vietnamese consumers’ valuation, trust was found to be a critical factor shaping willingness to pay for products bearing VietGAP label. Policy implications and marketing strategies for organic certifications and traceability schemes in Vietnam are discussed.
... This result suggests that the pessimism about current food safety was widespread in Hanoi though, according to World Bank (2016), there has been some improvement in nutrition and food diversity in the household food basket in recent years. It is evident that when the country shifted from food insecurity to food abundance, thanks to modernised agri-food system (Ehlert and Faltmann, 2019), safety has emerged as the most intimidating aspect of food in consumers' lens. ...
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Purpose This paper analyses Hanoi consumers' evaluation of food risk and response to the perceived risk. Design/methodology/approach The authors employed the mixed method approach that integrates segmentation analysis on the survey data and information from group discussions. Findings Based on consumers' risk rating of six food groups and level of food safety worry, the authors identified four distinct consumer segments: low, moderate, high and very-high-risk perception. The authors found the existence of widespread food safety concerns among Hanoi consumers. Living in an urban region was associated with a higher level of food risk perception. Moderate, high and very-high-risk perception segments exhibited a very low level of institutional trust and subjective control over hazards. Response to the perceived risk differed across segments. “Very high-risk perception” was associated with the most risk-averse behaviour, putting more effort into seeking food safety information and engaging more in supermarket purchase. Consumers with a low and moderate perceived food risk participate more in self-supply of food to reduce their food safety concern. Practical implications The paper provides empirical evidence on consumers' evaluation of food risk and their risk-reducing strategies to support the risk communication in Vietnam. Social implications Enhancing institutional trust and risk communication including hazard education can improve consumer confidence in food. Originality/value This is the first segmentation study on consumer food risk perception in Vietnam.
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Using secondary analysis of data from the Malaysian Food Barometer (MFB), this article highlights ethnocultural dimensions and social functions of breakfasts in the Malaysian population. MFB uses a 24-h dietary recall that lets the interviewee give the name of the food intake. It shows that breakfasts from the Asian food register dominate with 50.7% (Malays, 50.4%; Indians, 51.9%; Chinese, 47.6%; non-Malay Bumiputra 50.1%), whereas 26.1% eat a westernised breakfast and 17.6% eat no breakfast. If we add those who just have a beverage, 20% do not eat a “proper” breakfast. The Asian breakfasts are characterised by including cooked dishes. These sometimes require real craftmanship to prepare. Therefore, they are mostly purchased outside and consumed either at home, at the workplace, or outside, in restaurants or food courts, such as “mamaks” or “nasi kandar “. Breakfast dishes can be attached to the food culture of the three main ethnic groups of Malaysia, but the boundaries between breakfast cultural styles are fluid and there is a sort of pooling of the breakfast dishes. This porosity of the boundaries between culinary styles is one of the main characteristics of Malaysian breakfast culture. It is so important that when asked, “What could represent Malaysia the best for submission to UNESCO’s intangible heritage list?”, the sample of a national representative population places two breakfast dishes first (nasi lemak and roti canai). This knowledge of the ethno-cultural dimensions of breakfast will help public health nutritionists and policymakers consider cultural characteristics and avoid the risk of a (non-conscious) neo-colonial attitude in promoting western style breakfasts. However, bearing in mind the influence of the British colonisation, the so-called westernised breakfast could also be considered as part of a cosmopolitanised breakfast culture. Finally, the understanding of breakfast culture will feed the debate around, and the progress towards, sociocultural sustainable healthy diets.
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This article draws on Bourdieu’s concept of habitus as a means to analyse social distinction and change in terms of class and gender through the lens of food consumption. By focusing on urban Vietnam, this qualitative study looks into the daily practices of food consumption, dieting and working on the body as specific means to enact ideal body types. Economically booming Vietnam has attracted growing investment capital in the fields of body and beauty industries and food retail. After decades of food insecurity, urban consumers find themselves manoeuvring in between growing food and lifestyle options, a nutrition transition, and contradicting demands on the consumer to both indulge and restrain themselves. Taking this dynamic urban context as its point of departure and adopting an intersectional perspective, this article assesses how eating, dieting and body performance are applied in terms of making class and doing gender. It shows that the growing urban landscape of food and body-centric industries facilitates new possibilities for distinction, dependent not only on economic capital but on bodily and cultural capital also, and furthermore, how social habitus regarding food–body relationships are gendered and interlaced with class privilege.
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Globally, food policies strive to steer citizens in specific directions, however consumption remains largely unruly. This is also the case in Hanoi, Vietnam, where the food safety driven supermarketisation policy is only minimally successful in diverting consumers from traditional markets. Previous research demonstrated that low-income urbanites do not shop at supermarkets and maintain their minimally adequate diet quality through market shopping. Nevertheless, shifts in diets are occurring. The traditional local plant-based diet, which may be considered a ‘planetary health diet’, is shifting towards an increased uptake of animal proteins, ultra-processed foods and sugar sweetened beverages. This begs the question of how dietary shifts are shaping up. This paper aims to uncover emerging dietary trends by understanding the more hidden dynamics of food consumption in the everyday life of low-income urbanites. We use an intergenerational social practice approach to household food security, focussing on food access and utilization in balancing diet quality and food safety priorities within the context of Hanoi's changing food retail environment. Our qualitative methods, consisting of multi-generation household interviews and shopping trips, uncovered: (i) younger women prefer traditional food acquisition and preparation practices for modern convenience; (ii) the changing food environment is mitigated by informal relations and networks that are increasingly online; and (iii) fast-food is entering the home through pester power. Our results demonstrate food security is a dynamic interplay of food environments, food acquisition and preparation preferences, and creative agency, wherein food security takes different forms within changing contexts. We discuss the usefulness of our approach and recommend policy makers consult with populations directly impacted by planned food policies to ensure they are relevant and leverage the creative agency demonstrated by this population.
Article
Vietnam's economic transformation has been widely celebrated. Since the onset of market reforms in the late 1980s, rural communities with endemic rural poverty in the Red River Delta have become middle-income settlements. While there are many reasons for this uptick in economic prosperity, keeping land holdings for rice growing is not one of them: rice cultivation is unprofitable, hard work, and exposes families to significant opportunity costs. In an era of enhanced land commoditization and plentiful off-farm employment, what accounts for the widespread insistence on maintaining household rice land? Through a mixed methods study of three communes in northern Vietnam, we argue that smallholders are simultaneously reflecting historically on their family's embedded relationship to rice cultivation, thinking beyond the farm to other opportunities in the present, and hedging future economic risks against the constancy of rice land and what it can yield. Rural households pivot between past, present, and future when considering the value and role of their rice land. We show through the cases of these three communes that rural economic growth and national structural change do not automatically result in a diminution of rice farming. Understanding this ‘fact’ requires an approach that is sensitive to the shadows of history, aware of the multiple and different pressures in the present, while also being alert to people's sense of what the future might hold. This resonates with smallholder farming across Asia, the direction and shape of the wider agrarian transition, and helps to explain why policies aimed at agricultural modernisation have often failed, at least in their own terms.
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