Fake rice search!

Gov’t agencies trying to determine source of product

Monday, December 12, 2016

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GOVERNMENT agents are no closer to determining how plastic rice might have infiltrated the country’s ports after a Television Jamaica report, aired Sunday, showed a woman cooking the product, triggering fear among consumers.


Yesterday, officials from Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA), the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), and the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) told journalists at a hastily called press conference that they had not yet located the source of the product nor could they say if the product has actually hit the shelves of wholesalers and supermarkets.


"...If it is smuggled in it is going to be most difficult to track because we have no information; and remember that our ports are porous so we have to keep that in mind. We also have to keep in mind that if indeed there’s plastic rice it can originate from here also, not imported. So we have to be mindful of those facts," deputy CEO in charge of operations at the JCA, Karlene Henry told journalists attending the press conference held at Jamaica Customs, Newport East.


She added that so far samples have been taken from the shelves of supermarkets in Manchester, the parish in which the fake rice was allegedly bought. She also said islandwide sampling will be done to determine the origin, and that the results of these tests will not be known before a minimum of 72 hours.


In the meantime, the JCA announced yesterday that it has temporarily ceased the clearance of rice at all ports of entry, pending test results.


"We have commenced investigations into the allegations and we have started by collecting samples at certain locations. These samples will be tested by BSJ and follow-up action will be taken by the CAC if it’s found that it is indeed the plastic rice. The JCA and other regulatory agencies have agreed to detain all rice currently on the port pending sampling and analysis," said director of JCA’s contraband enforcement team Albert Anderson.


He said that tests will be conducted by the MICAF, BSJ, and the Food Storage and Prevention of Infestation Division.


Anderson warned that sanctions will be levied against people who have been fingered as the source of the fake staple, if it is determined that it was deliberately imported. He said that they would be in breach of the Customs Act and could be fined up to $500,000 and the goods seized.


At the same time, officials have rejected the idea that a shortfall in testing could be the reason the fake rice is in the country.


"This is definitely not a shortfall of testing. When shipments arrive samples of rice are taken [of] moisture and broken grain is done, and this is in accordance with the requirements of the Jamaican standards specification for rice," BSJ director Orine Henry said.


Jamaica imports rice from Trinidad and Tobago, Vietnam, India, United States, Guyana, Thailand, China, and Suriname, a JCA official said.


Head of the CAC, Dolsie Allen, meanwhile, has urged consumers to exercise vigilance when purchasing rice."Ensure that you buy your items from reputable organisations and establishments. Any consumer out there who would has purchased this (plastic) rice then we ask that you take it back to where you bought along with your receipt and claim back your funds," she advised.


 


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