Sat, Mar 03, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Officials decry center’s baby food claim

TOO HIGH?The Agriculture and Food Agency said organic arsenic in the Taiwanese rice used for the sampled baby food did not exceed EU levels. The Hong Kong center said it did

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

The Council of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Agency (AFA) on Thursday rejected a Hong Kong survey that said two Taiwanese rice products contained heavy metal residues higher than recommended by international baby food standards.

The Hong Kong Organic Resource Center on Tuesday released a survey of heavy metal residues in 45 rice samples, of which 26 were found to contain high levels of inorganic arsenic.

Two of the four sampled Taiwanese organic rice products were shown to contain high levels of inorganic arsenic — 0.13 milligram per kilogram (mg/kg) and 0.14mg/kg respectively — exceeding the level allowed in rice used for making baby food, the center said in its news release, adding that 0.1mg/kg is the level set by the EU.

Excessive exposure to inorganic arsenic could damage the central nervous system, impede the intellectual development of children and even increase the risk of developing cancers, it said.

In response, the AFA said in a statement on Thursday that the rice products were within the levels allowed by the EU and the UN’s Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Taiwan Agriculture Research Institute associate researcher Lin Yu-wen (林毓雯) yesterday added that while the maximum level of inorganic arsenic that the EU allows in rice used for baby food is 0.1mg/kg, the EU allows 0.2mg/kg in polished rice and 0.25mg/kg in husked rice.

While the nation has yet to approve an allowed level for rice used in baby food, the Food and Drug Administration has published draft regulations on the allowed levels of pollutants and toxic substances in food, AFA official Lee Hsieh-chang (李協昌) said, adding that the regulations are to be implemented later this year.

The draft allows a maximum level of 0.35mg/kg in husked rice, 0.2mg/kg in polished rice and 0.1mg/kg in rice used for making baby food.

The agency regularly tests between 500 and 600 rice samples per year, and re-examines polluted fields, AFA Deputy Director-General Juang Lao-dar (莊老達) said, adding that the agency finds it unnecessary to test all rice products because the failure ratio is generally much lower than one per thousand.

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