Contaminated rice may reach local markets

The China Post staff

Authorities are checking where some 10 tons of heavy metals-contaminated rice from the southern county of Kaohsiung has gone. The Council of Agriculture (COA) and the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) issued a joint press release yesterday that about 10 tons of rice grown in 1.88 hectares of cadmium-contaminated farmland in Kaohsiung County’s Taliao Village might have flowed into the local market. “We have asked the Kaohsiung County Government to accelerate investigations and retrieve all of the rice for burning,” said Cheng Shean-rong, director of the EPA’s Bureau of Water Quality Protection. Cheng said the EPA and the COA announced the farmland in Taliao was contaminated by cadmium on April 23 and directed the county government the following day to list the farmland as a “controlled site.” The Kaohsiung county government then collected rice samples from the contaminated farmland for examination. An examination report released May 2 showed that the rice from the farmland in question was not contaminated. The county government decided not to burn off the rice and to allow farmers to sell their crops. However, it was decided at an inter-department meeting between the EPA, the COA and the Department of Health on May 3 that any edible food grains grown on contaminated farmland should all be burned with no requirement for any contamination to be proved. According to this new decision, the EPA and the COA have stepped up tracking where the rice from the contaminated Taliao farmland has flowed. An EPA field study shows that the 1.88 hectares of cultivated land in Taliao contain legally stipulated safe levels of such heavy metals as zinc, nickel and cadmium. Although farmland contamination does not necessarily imply that crops from the contaminated soil would definitely be contaminated, the EPA and the COA have decided to scrap all those crops to protect public health. The Kaohsiung County Government said it remains unclear whether the rice from the contaminated farmland in Taliao has flowed into retail markets. “Maybe the rice is still in the hands of wholesalers. Anyway, we’ll step up tracking the crops,” said a county official.