PM tastes rice amid toxicity fears
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has played down contamination concerns over packed rice, saying fumigation happens only in some parts of the production process.
- Published: 19/07/2013 at 12:30 AM
- Newspaper section: topstories
TV producer Sutthiphong Thammawuthi watched the testing processes for Royal Umbrella brand (Tra Chatr) rice, said he was wrong to post warnings about it on Facebook, and proclaimed it good enough to eat and display on his upcoming TV shows. (Photos by Sunthon Pongpao)
"There are enough standard tests before the rice is packed, so do not worry about it," Ms Yingluck said. "The problem may happen in some but not all processes."
The prime minister was speaking Thursday during an inspection of a rice factory of the Charoen Pokphand (CP) group, which produces the Royal Umbrella brand of rice, in Ayutthaya's Nakhon Luang district.
The inspection came after the Foundation for Consumers (FFC) and its associates announced their own findings on Tuesday that 34 of 46 packed rice samples contained various amounts of methyl bromide - an odourless, colourless gas used to fumigate rice.
Accompanied by Public Health Minister Pradit Sintawanarong and Deputy Commerce Minister Yanyong Phuangrach, Ms Yingluck ate a portion of cooked Hom Mali rice processed at the factory to show it was safe.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra samples rice while inspecting a company of the Charoen Pokphand group which produces the Royal Umbrella brand rice in Ayutthaya’s Nakhon Luang district Thursday. The tasting was held to boost public confidence in packed rice after reports that some brands may be contaminated with chemicals. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
She said the Public Health Ministry's rice tests meet standards.
The public should be confident in the rice on the market, she added.
Ms Yingluck said the ministry will conduct tests on all production processes for packed rice.
Dr Pradit said people who are concerned about the safety of any particular packaged rice brands can notify the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about their concerns and the agency would conduct inspections of the relevant rice mills and warehouses.
Mr Yanyong said a rice trade centre to prevent contamination has been set up to check on the safety of stockpiled rice in the government's rice-pledging scheme and that sold in local markets. The tests would take place on a random basis.
The centre will bring together several state organisations responsible for monitoring rice safety, he said.
Sumeth Laomoraporn, chief executive of CP Intertrade Co, CP's rice-producing subsidiary, said rice exports would not be damaged by the current negative coverage of the national rice stock. China and Japan, which are key buyers of Thai rice, still have confidence in Thai rice, Mr Sumeth said.
Meanwhile, representatives of packed rice brands Co-co (pimpa white rice), Khao Sandee (fragrant rice) and the Thai Rice Packers Association have asked to meet the FFC today to ask for the FFC's rice test results.
The FFC's test showed Co-co rice contained 67.4 parts per million (ppm) of fumigant, exceeding the Codex limit of 50ppm.
FFC secretary-general Saree Aongsomwang said she will request a meeting with Ms Yingluck to propose measures to protect consumers from unsafe food products.
The FFC will urge the FDA to set up a working group on rice and food safety examination, she said.
Ms Saree also brushed aside concerns over the standards of the FFC's rice testing lab, saying it had advanced equipment. The test results meet official standards, she said.
The focus should be on how to prevent contamination and the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry must teach producers how to fumigate rice and other products properly, she said.
The FFC and BioThai Foundation on Thursday called on authorities to help solve the rice safety problem for the sake of consumers' health.
Both organisations said their scrutiny is aimed at improving Thai rice and the public's attention should not be diverted from the matter.
About the author
- Writer: Patsara Jikkham, Phusadee Arunmas and Mongkol Bangprapa