A consumer rights group checked 150 samples from 88 Vietnamese and Thai brands and found large amounts of the element.

Vietnamese consumers might have to be more careful with their favorite fish sauce as a new study has found that a staggering 67 percent of the samples contain high levels of arsenic.

The Vietnam Standards and Consumers Association, better known as Vinatas, said 101 of the 150 fish sauce samples on the market had exceeded the safe level of one milligram of arsenic per liter, with some samples containing five times that amount.

Fish sauce products with a higher protein content somehow tend to have more arsenic, according to the study, which checked 88 brands, including one from Thailand.

The Vietnamese samples were produced in 19 cities and provinces across the countries.

More than 83 percent of the samples were also found to have at least one chemical exceeding the safety standards.

Vu Van Dien, the vice chairman of Vinatas, said his unit is not capable of conducting a larger study to include more samples, but initial results can give the authorities some insight into the local fish sauce market.

Arsenic is known as a poison and carcinogen. Food is a major source of arsenic exposure for humans. However, the organic form found in seafood is generally believed to be much less harmful.

Commenting on the new findings of high arsenic levels, an expert in the fish sauce industry said conclusions should not be drawn too quickly from the results. She said organic arsenic is naturally found in fish and that producers do not add arsenic into their products.

Pham Tien Dung, an inspector from the agriculture ministry, said the effects of organic arsenic on health require further research.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc earlier this month ordered the ministries of health and industry to check the quality of popular fish sauce products in Vietnam, after local newspaper Thanh Nien reported that a large number of chemicals are used by the industry.

The ministries are expected to submit a report on their findings by October 22.

Fish sauce is the essence of Vietnamese cuisine and is used in almost all dishes.

The country consumes some 200 million liters of fish sauce every year. Annual sales of fish sauce in the country are about VND7.2-7.5 trillion ($320-333 million), according to data from the General Statistics Office.

Euromonitor, a global market intelligence publisher, however, reported that the sales value of fish sauce in Vietnam last year was VND11.3 trillion ($501 million) and industrially made products accounted for 76 percent of the market.

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