Sixty percent of the brown rice on local shop shelves may be mislabeled as being of a higher grade than it actually is, the Consumers’ Foundation said.
The foundation said it tested 20 samples of brown rice — eight small packages of brown rice and the other 12 organic brown rice — purchased randomly in Taipei and New Taipei City (新北市) in March, and all five samples labeled as Grade-A failed to live up to the billing.
Six of 11 products labeled as Grade-B also failed to meet the required standards, as did one of the three grade-C products.
The foundation’s investigation also found that one of the organic samples, labeled as Fuli organic brown rice, contained traces of pesticide.
The Fuli Farmers’ Association, which produced the rice, on Wednesday apologized to consumers after learning of the test results and said it would recall the product in question and carefully examine its most recent rice crop.
Organic products are prohibited by law from containing pesticides or chemical fertilizers, the foundation said, and violators are subject to fines of between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000 (US$1,000 and US$5,000).
Foundation chairman Mark Chang (張智剛) said food safety must start with attention to detail, and he urged the authorities to rigorously monitor food safety and product labeling.
“The higher the grade of rice, the more expensive it is,” Chang said, adding that if consumers are paying a higher price for a supposedly higher grade of rice that has been mislabeled, then they are wasting their money.
Higher grades of rice generally have fewer damaged, discolored or immature grains than lower grades.
In related news, the Homemakers United Foundation (HUF) said that food products containing genetically modified (GM) soybeans could pose a risk to human health and should be properly labeled.
Over 90 percent of soybean products contain genetically modified ingredients, but there is no legislation governing the issue, HUF Secretary-General Huang Chia-lin (黃嘉琳) said.
However, according to the WHO’s Web site, GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are unlikely to present health risks.
Despite this, the HUF said it is concerned about the safety of food derived from GM soybeans and wants such products to be clearly labeled so that they can be easily identified by consumers.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said that in addition to GM produce, the problem of food waste, food shortages and food safety are also pressing issues.
About 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted around the worldevery year, creating an enormous drain on natural resources and a negative impact on the environment, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.