A major packaged rice vendor yesterday said it is removing its products from the market due to pesticide residue concerns.
King-Town Co. said it decided to recall all packaged-rice products from the same harvest after tests commissioned by the company showed that some of them contained excessive levels of pesticide residue.
“We immediately informed downstream distributors such as hypermarts and supermarket chains and recalled our small-packaged rice,” Hsiao Yi-ho, a King-Town executive, was cited by the Central News Agency as saying.
The rice batch was from the first harvest of this year, which totaled 500 metric tons. About 120 tons have either been recalled or will soon be removed from the market, Hsiao said, adding that this means 380 tons of contaminated rice have already been sold to consumers.
“Consumers may return the rice to distributors or contact us via the toll-free telephone number printed on the packages,” Hsiao said.
The Changhua-based King-Town was established in 1939, and is a major packaged rice supplier in Taiwan.
After an emergency meeting late yesterday, the Council of Agriculture (COA) demanded King-Town keep all of its rice products off shelves until the products' safety can be guaranteed.
COA Minister Chen Bao-ji pointed out that information released by King-Town yesterday evening failed to clarify the public's doubt over the incident. He warned that the company would be responsible if its failure to explain the situation causes consumer panics and damages local rice product sales.
The United Evening News cited agricultural authorities as saying they are investigating the recall.
The COA reportedly said that while King-Town had shown responsibility by removing the tainted rice, the company had declined to provide the test results that had prompted the recall.
The COA's Agriculture and Food Agency said it has tested 610 rice samples, including nine from King-Town, so far this year, but no excessive levels of pesticide residues were detected in any of them.
The COA is now sending its personnel to collect samples of the King-Town rice products from the market for testing, the United Evening News said.
The newspaper said the COA was not aware of the pesticide scare until the media broke the news yesterday.
The Apple Daily reported that the supplier had told supermarkets and hypermarts earlier this week to remove 21 different types of King-Town's Jindong-branded packaged rice from their shelves due to the pesticide scare.
The newspaper said that as of Thursday evening, at least 120,000 kilograms of King-Town products had been removed from store shelves at Taiwan's three major hypermarket chains.
Excessive amounts of two pesticides, fenitrothion and phenthoate, were found in the rice, the paper said.
The King-Town executive disclosed that the company discovered high levels of pesticides in its rice stocks during a spot check in mid-October and by the end of the month had identified the warehouse from which the tainted products was shipped.
The batch of tainted rice came from Changhua in Central Taiwan, but as rice from different farmers was mixed together, the company has been unable to pinpoint the exact source of the problem, Hsiao said.
In addition to recalling the tainted rice, King-Town has withheld stocks of unpackaged rice that may contain excessive levels of pesticide, Hsiao said. “We will not allow any more contaminated rice to enter the market,” he said.
Agricultural experts noted that harvesting of rice crops should be delayed for at least 21 days after the use of the pesticides fenitrothion and phenthoate, according to the CNA.
The rainy weather earlier this year may have sent farmers rushing to harvest their crops before the 21-day period, the experts were cited as saying.