Tue, Nov 26, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Rice-wine checkups proving popular

PUBLIC HEALTH Department of Health officials offered free testing of the cooking staple across the nation in response to recent reports of poisoned and fake products

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

A worker at the Department of Health yesterday conducts a free rice-wine test in front of the department.

PHOTO: CNA

Local health departments across the country began offering free rice-wine tests yesterday to ease the public's concern about counterfeit rice wines that have killed several people in Ilan.

The Department of Health offered free rice-wine tests to 200 people from 10am to 5pm in the lobby of its Taipei headquarters yesterday.

One of the people packed into the lobby, a man surnamed Kao, brought in a bottle of wine worth NT$110,000, according to a Chinese-language newspaper.

"I made this bottle of wine by immersing deer-antler skin in rice wine. Now fraudulent rice wines are reported everywhere. I am worried my rice wine is counterfeit," Kao was quoted as saying.

A pregnant woman brought in several bottles of rice wine to be tested. She said she bought the wine while pregnant with her second child two years ago.

"I am going to give birth to my third child. I am afraid these bottles of rice wine are fraudulent. It is very cold today but I must come for the test," she said.

Rice wine is commonly used for cooking. It is a custom for mothers who have just given birth to eat chicken cooked with rice wine.

The wine testing facility in the Taipei City Government's Department of Health was a also popular. One man transported a huge vat of herbal wine there to be tested, according to Chinese-language newspapers.

Health departments across the country yesterday conducted 726 tests, which take an hour to complete, according the DOH.

The tests revealed 31 bottles that contained excessive levels of methanol, which is believed to be the component that caused the deaths in Ilan.

Seven of the 31 instances were discovered in Ilan, the highest number among all local health departments.

Ilan County Government has confirmed the deaths of three people who used fake rice wine, although Chinese-language media has reported as many as 11 deaths.

Five cases were reported in Hualien County, while Tainan City and Miaoli County both discovered four cases.

Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲), acting head of the DOH, said his department would try to expand the service.

The National Police Administration reported yesterday the police across the country have seized nearly 50,000 liters of counterfeit rice wine during the past five days.

Thirteen people allegedly involved in manufacturing fake rice wine have been arrested, according to the police.

The police have also discovered factories manufacturing fake rice wine in Ilan, Taipei, Taichung, Nantou, Yunlin and Kaohsiung.

Meanwhile, Taichung's Chaoyang University of Technology announced yesterday it will offer free rice-wine tests starting tomorrow. Those interested may send a wine sample of 10cc to the university's department of applied chemistry.

Also see story:

Editorial: When a staple becomes a threat

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