Thu, Mar 07, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Control Yuan issues rectification and censure over contaminated rice issue

By Lin Miao-Jung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Control Yuan censured and issued a rectification order to the Environmental Protection Admin-istration (EPA, 環保署), the Yunlin County Government (雲林縣) and the Council of Agriculture (COA, 農委會) yesterday for negligence resulting in the contamination of rice with cadmium, which could damage the health of consumers.

Cadmium is a heavy metal which can cause poisoning if consumed beyond certain levels.

The rice, harvested in Yunlin County last June, was found by the COA to contain cadmium. By the time the contamination was detected, however, the farmers had harvested the rice and sold it.

Huang Huang-shien, the Control Yuan member in charge of the case, (黃煌雄) told the Taipei Times that, "The COA did not test the rice early enough, so the poisoned rice entered the market and became available to consumers."

After the county government became aware of the situation, "it took some rather hasty action but failed to address the situation properly," said Huang.

The Control Yuan's report says that the county government had been slow in its efforts to track down the polluted rice because it took 82 days after the test results came out before the rice was traced and destroyed, but by then some of the rice had already been sold on the open market.

The report also said the county government had failed to compensate the farmers who had been unable to sell their rice. Some of the farmers sought to recover their losses by subsequently planting the same land with other crops such as corn, which is not required to be tested for heavy metal contamination.

The law requires rice to be randomly tested for heavy metals.

"This is a serious problem" said Huang.

He complained that the EPA and other government agencies had failed to establish food-control standards to establish whether crops are polluted or not.

"This is important to the health of Taiwanese citizens. We hope the related government agencies can establish standards as soon as possible and report their efforts to the Control Yuan," Huang added.

Media reports last September stated that managers of a dye-stuff factory close to the contaminated sites were being questioned by EPA officials.

But the Control Yuan's report states that the source of the contamination remains unknown.

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