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New food scare as report says tainted rice sold

(Shanghai Daily)

08:07, February 28, 2013

Tens of thousands of tons of cadmium-laced rice may have entered the market in south China's Guangdong Province since 2009, a newspaper reported following an investigation.

Government-owned Shenzhen Cereals Group bought the tainted rice in 2009 from state-run and regional grain reserves in Hunan Province, a major rice producing region in central China, Nanfang Daily reported yesterday.

Quality inspectors found as early as 2009 that the rice contained excessive levels of cadmium and ruled the rice could only be used for industrial purposes such as making industrial alcohols.

Cadmium is a metal harmful to the kidneys and intestines and can cause cancer.

The Shenzhen Cereals Group disposed of only 100 tons of the tainted rice, or about 1 percent of the total, and sold the rest to rice noodle makers and wholesalers at discount prices, the newspaper said.

After months of investigation, the report traced the tainted rice to the Guangdong capital of Guangzhou and Dongguan City, a key manufacturing hub in the province.

Lab tests showed all the samples bought randomly in Guangzhou contained excessive cadmium levels. Several rice noodle factories in Dongguan admitted having purchased hundreds of tons of problem rice, the paper reported.

Several granaries in Hunan reportedly said it is widely known that rice grown there has high levels of cadmium.

Chen Jian, manager with the grain reserve in Hunan's capital Changsha City, was cited as saying that the air, soil and water is polluted so it affects the rice.

"Even the super-high quality rice has problems with heavy metals," he told the newspaper.

According to an official, surnamed Wang, with the grain reserve in Hunan's Xiangtan City, its major clients include Jinsiqi, one of the biggest rice and noodle makers in Guangdong, and Zhujiang Beer. Jinsiqi bought at least 700 tons of rice every month, he said.

Sources told the newspaper the rice sold to Jinsiqi and Shenzhen Cereals Group was stored in the same warehouse.

The grain reserves have their own inspection department and few buyers would ask for checks from an independent party, Wang was cited as saying.

Such loopholes in safety supervision allow problem rice to enter markets around the nation, the paper said.

Rice suppliers in Hunan blamed the Shenzhen Cereals Group, saying the company only cared about getting the rice at a cheaper price. The Shenzhen Cereals Group didn't comment on the report.

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