The Beijing municipal government yesterday hit back at allegations that the
city's grain bureau sold rotten rice in local markets.
Overseas media reported in July that the bureau had bought 290,000 tons of
rotten rice during the SARS outbreak in April 2003 as reserves, and then sold it
in the capital's food markets early this year.
It is forbidden to sell out-of-date rice in markets because it contains high
levels of a toxic pathogen, which can survive in temperatures of up to 280
degrees Celsius and might cause cancer.
The spokesperson of the municipal government pointed out in a written
statement that the report was wrong on many facts.
"Beijing municipal grain bureau actually bought 287,000 tons of grain from
Heilongjiang Province in Northeast China in March 2004, not 290,000 tons of
rotten rice," said the statement.
The purchase aimed to lower the price of rice during the period.
The State Grain and Oil Quality Supervision and Inspection Centre conducted
sample examinations, as did the grain stock authorities. Both said in test
reports that the grain was up to scratch.
But the spokesperson said that 31,000 tons out of the total 287,000 tons of
grain had deteriorated.
This was due to temperature variations between Heilongjiang and Beijing,
which may have caused a small percentage of the grain to go bad during
transportation and storage, said the statement.
The law forbids rotten rice being sold in grain markets, but allows
officially appointed enterprises to purchase it through public auction to make
industrial alcohol and animal feed.
Following the law, the bureau sold the 31,000 tons of rotten rice to
appointed manufacturers in April 2006.
None of the rotten rice has made its way onto the grain market, said the
In fact, the grain bureau and local law enforcement departments have been
taking measures to crack down on illegal food sales.
In a special action in April, the bureau hunted down 2,290 tons of rotten
rice, 739 tons from outside Beijing and 1,551 tons from a Beijing grain and oil
There was no connection between this crack down and the 31,000 tons of rotten
rice, said the spokesperson.
Investigations showed that the company purchased 6,616 tons of good quality
rice in April 2005, but 1,551 tons of it went bad in the summer because of
inappropriate storage. Between January and May, the company had been trying to
get rid of the rice.
The company was fined 380,000 yuan (US$47,500) and all the rotten rice was
The municipal government also made spot checks on rice in grain markets,
supermarkets, construction sites, colleges, fast-food sellers and 17 rice
processing factories, but no rotten rice was discovered.
The spokesperson denied the allegation that the municipal government was
covering up the truth to cheat the public.