60% of rice products in Taiwan below quality standards

PHOTO: 60% of rice products in Taiwan below quality standards

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Consumers' Foundation (CF) yesterday announced the results of a brown rice quality test, finding that 60 per cent of tested brands had misreported the rice grades found on labels, while one organic brand even contained pesticide residue.

The international standard of rice quality is graded in levels of premium, one, two and three - with premium ranked the best and one the second-best - according to such criteria as the amount of damaged grains and moisture content.

The watchdog organisation pointed out that of the 20 brown rice brands sampled, five that claimed to be Grade 1 fell short of the standard; while only five of the 11 brands that claimed to be Grade 2 met those qualifications.

In addition, brand Cotton Land failed to display information on rice grades or the milled dates, which violates the Enforcement Rules of Food Administration Act and could be subject to a fine between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000, the foundation stated.

The reports also showed that a popular organic rice brand - Fuli Organic rice - actually contained pesticide residue. Fuli Farmer's Association Director Lin Huei-huang issued an apology yesterday afternoon after the the report was announced, adding that the group has already demanded sellers pull the products from shelves and markets.

"Tainted food product scandals start with small negligence by officials. Competent authorities should initiate strict gate-keeping on food safety from the beginning to avoid such food scams," said CF Chairman Mark Chang.

"Also, it is unfair to customers when they buy higher-graded rice at a more expensive price when what they're getting isn't even what they're paying."

Other brown rice products that did not meet standards for their claimed grades were Uni-President Organic Rice, Sunsuivi, I-Mei, Taisugar, Carrefour and Wellcome.

Uni-President Company issued a statement yesterday rejects the CF's claim that the firm's rice products are below Grade 1 standards. The company insisted that it occasionally conducts quality tests on their rice products, and that their quality was unquestionably Grade 1. "We do not cheat our customers," the statement said.