Source of rice scandal

Updated: 2013-05-23 07:49

(China Daily)

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It seems that residents in South China's Guangdong province can have fewer qualms about the safety of rice, since at least 94 percent of the rice recently tested met State safety standards.

So the scandal of rice contaminated with heavy metals should end without having much of an impact on consumers' confidence. At least we hope that this is the scenario that is unfolding.

Yet, one question remains unanswered: How did rice from Central China's Hunan province become contaminated with heavy metals such as cadmium?

Despite the provincial authority's denial that its soil is the source of the contamination, that is no excuse for turning a blind eye to the possibility, as the province produces more than 10 percent of the country's rice.

It should be borne in mind that hundreds of Hunan children were found to have high levels of lead in their blood two years ago, which also raised concerns about heavy metal pollution.

If the soil is indeed the culprit, it is important for consumers and the government to have a clear picture of the problem, although it risks hurting the province's status as the country's major rice producer if the local government proves and admits the cadmium found in the rice was from the local soil. Then it is essential to determine how badly the soil has been contaminated.

If the soil is not to blame, where did the cadmium come from?

Whatever is the culprit, the local governments at all levels should not try to brush the pollution under the carpet. A simple truth and transparency will lift public confidence in the administration. The earlier measures are adopted to deal with the contamination and tame the source, the better.

Even if some local governments would rather sacrifice the safety of rice for their GDP figures, the central government should realize how serious the consequences will be if a major rice producer of the country cannot provide trustworthy products.

Although it will be a difficult and time-consuming task, the authorities must take the bull by the horns to tackle the problem of pollution and ensure food safety.

Hopefully, this rice contamination scandal will result in the central government paying enough attention to the problem of heavy metal pollution and the potential harm it can cause.

(China Daily 05/23/2013 page11)