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|Friday, August 03, 2001, updated at 08:08(GMT+8)|
State Rings Alarm over Noxious RiceChina's Ministry of Health Thursday issued an emergency circular requiring its branches at various levels to confiscate inferior rice which are produced and marketed in some areas of China.
Recently, about 308 tons of poor-quality rice, of 42 brands, have been seized in South China's Guangdong Province.
The rice is processed from moldy rice using bleach, polish, mineral oil and other substances, and are sold in the market under famous brand names.
Some of them have even been packaged as high-quality rice imported from Thailand.
Experts say the rice contains excessive aflatoxin B1, which is cancerogenic, and may pose a serious threat to consumers' health.
The ministry asked all health administrations to conduct strict examinations of the rice on the market to keep the poisonous rice from consumers.
Those engaged in rice production and sales should be thoroughly checked, said the circular.
It also demands that enterprises violating China's Law on Food Hygiene or operating without licenses should be closed.
Illegal rice producers and merchants violating the law will be brought to justice, the circular continued.
Article 144 of the Criminal Law stipulates that those found using poisonous or dangerous non-food additives in food, or deliberately selling such contaminated food, can be sentenced to up to five years of imprisonment.
If such food causes deaths, the manufacturers or merchants of the poisonous food can be sentenced to more than 10-years imprisonment, life imprisonment or death.
According to Xinhua News Agency, more than 353 tons of poisonous rice have been found entering the market in Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong, and other regions of the province.
The local health administration has kicked off an investigation of rice on the market throughout the province.
Health officials said that people should pay attention to very cheap prices, which are offered for the poisonous ones.
Medical experts suggest that consumers who have eaten the rice have a medical examination.
Lawyers suggest that consumers who have eaten the rice apply for damages from the producers or the merchants.
Two owners of enterprises found to be producing poisonous rice in Guangzhou have been detained.
To date, no such rice has been found in Beijing or other regions of the country, official news said.
The ministry also called on the media to play an active role in publicizing related laws, regulations and knowledge of food hygiene, so as to enhance enterprises' awareness of laws and consumers' ability to identify counterfeit goods.
At the beginning of this year, the ministry launched a nationwide campaign to fight against fake and inferior foods, medicines and medical products.
In the first quarter of this year, a total of 38 serious accidents caused by poisonous food have been reported, in which 40 people were killed and another 734 were poisoned, official statistics indicate.
To date, no acute poisonings caused by the doctored rice have been reported.
The State Council has given priority to the fight against fake products and protecting consumers' legal rights this year.
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