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May 2024

Prof claims rice eaten by Phumtham was infested with fungi, weevils

The Thailand Consumers Council (TCC) has demanded that the 15,000 tonnes of jasmine rice stored under the 2014 rice-pledging scheme undergo strict checks for quality and safety before it is sold.

The council and an academic from Chiang Mai University expressed concerns on Wednesday that the rice may be badly contaminated with anti-weevil and anti-fungi chemicals and may not be suitable for human or even animal consumption.

Monruedee Pho-in, deputy chief of the TCC’s policies and innovations division, and Assoc Prof Puntipa Pongpiachan, a lecturer from Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Agriculture, were referring to the rice that has been stockpiled at two private warehouses in Surin over the past 10 years.

On Monday, Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai, who also doubles as deputy PM, led a large delegation of reporters and private sector representatives to inspect the warehouses in Surin’s Muang and Prasat districts.

Prof claims rice eaten by Phumtham was infested with fungi, weevils

During the inspection, Phumtham ate some of the rice to prove it was safe for consumption and declared he would start auctioning it off in about a week.

Monruedee said the TCC called on the Commerce Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry and other relevant government agencies to check samples from every sack stored at the two warehouses to determine if it was contaminated by chemicals. She added that the results of these tests must be made public before the rice is put under the hammer.

She said if the government insists on selling the rice, then it should release the names of the buyers, their purpose of procurement and their rice brands.

If the rice gets sold in local markets, then there should be a notice on the bag showing the rice is from the 10-year-old stockpile, Monruedee said.

Prof claims rice eaten by Phumtham was infested with fungi, weevils

She added that consumers have the right to protect themselves and know if they are buying contaminated food.

Puntipa, meanwhile, said in a Facebook post that rice stored in warehouses at room temperature for 10 years will definitely be contaminated with different types of fungi, especially aflatoxin.

In the post, she warned that anyone who had consumed the rice with Phumtham on Monday had put fungi in their stomach.

Puntipa explained that grain stored at room temperature for no longer than a year can absorb humidity and become rotten or infested with fungi and insects.

The lecturer added that grain stored in dry, cold conditions of no higher than 13 degrees Celsius is safe for consumption.

However, she said, the way the rice sacks were piled up at the two warehouses would have allowed the rice to absorb moisture, and not all the rice would have been sprayed against weevils or fungi.

Puntipa noted that the rice sample removed to be cooked for Phumtham on Monday was infested with weevils and had to be washed up to 15 times instead of the normal three times. This she said proved that the rice was most contaminated.

Prof claims rice eaten by Phumtham was infested with fungi, weevils

Puntipa also noted that some of the cooked rice had brown tips, showing contamination with aflatoxin. She said this fungus can be killed at a temperature of 250ºC, but rice is cooked at just 100ºC.

She added that this rice is unsuitable to be used as animal feed because the milk, meat or eggs subsequently produced will also be contaminated.

Instead, she said, the 10-year-old rice would be suitable just for making alcohol or vinegar.

Critics, meanwhile, say Phumtham is trying to sell the remaining stock of the rice to prove that the rice-pledging scheme under former premier Yingluck Shinawatra had not caused damage to the country.

They said Phumtham had stepped up efforts to undo the damage caused by the scheme to lay the ground for Yingluck to return from her self-imposed exile later this year or early next year. QR Code

Published Date: May 8, 2024

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