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July 16, 2010

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Inspectors search for tainted rice

Food inspectors are combing local markets to find brands of rice purporting to have been produced in Wuchang, Heilongjiang Province, but which were tainted with an illegal fragrance.

The citywide checks began on Wednesday night but, so far, none of the fake rice has been found on sale locally.

The Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau found 55 venders in six wholesale markets in the Pudong New Area, Jiading, Putuo and Yangpu districts, selling rice produced in Wuchang.

"The only problem found was that in a market in Jiading District, some rice which was claimed to be Wuchang rice was actually produced in other provinces," said Chen Qiwei, spokesman for the Shanghai Municipal Government.

"Officials have ordered venders to stop selling the rice."

Market watchdog officials said current rice-quality testing standards do not include the use of flavoring essence, and the possible harm the essence may have is hard to say as the type of essence has yet to be confirmed.

At present, the state-level authorities have not ordered markets to remove Wuchang rice from shelves.

Accordingly, local checks would only target spotting and stopping sales of the reported tainted rice instead of launching massive quality tests of rice sold on the local market to see if they also contain harmful fragrances.

The bureau said they would strengthen market monitoring to prevent any suspect rice entering the market.

All suppliers will have to provide certificates proving the rice has passed inspection before their rice enters the city.

Genuine Wuchang rice, especially the breed "daohuaxiang," is popular for its natural fragrance and soft texture.

Flavor essence

Earlier this week, however, China Central Television said in a program that many brands labeled as "daohuaxiang" were actually made from other breeds of rice with flavoring essence added.

An official from Lotus Supermarkets said the suspect rice said to be produced in Wuchang was not available in its stores in Shanghai. "We have issued a notice to ask rice suppliers to submit origin certificates to prove rice safety," said the official.

Another local supermarket, NGS, said none of the rice it sells was from Wuchang.

"All the rice sold in our stores are from our own 13 production bases in areas like Northeast region, north of Jiangsu Province and Chongming Island near Shanghai."

On Wednesday, local Carrefour outlets stopped selling rice that was labeled as being from Wuchang.


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