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Consumers' Foundation opposes lower rice standards

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Consumers' Foundation (CF) yesterday said that it will report the Council of Agriculture (COA) to the Control Yuan for profiteering if the council lowers the standard for rice grading and inspections.

According to the CF, since some rice sellers were discovered mislabeling packaged rice in order to make higher profits, the COA and some major sellers from the trade association for rice sellers have been discussing adjusting the standards for rice grading and inspections.

CF Chairman Mark Chang (張智剛) said that the standards for rice inspection and grading have been carried out for decades, so it is impossible for officials or rice sellers to discover that those standards cannot be met now.

“If they found out that those standards are difficult to meet, it suggests that the COA has not been doing its job,” said Chang.

He said that the COA and some rice sellers claimed that machines cannot filter out rice that is qualified for the current regulated standards, but other sellers expressed contrary opinions.

“Some rice sellers saw the packaged rice that failed inspection and said that the proportion of disqualified rice contained in those products could not be caused by machines,” said Chang. “They said that it could only be the result of the people who produce them.”

As for rice sellers and the COA saying that climate change has affected the growth of rice, Chang said that the statement was unacceptable because it cannot be an excuse for rice sellers to mislabel products.

“The CF has been emphasizing that all products must be labeled correctly, but some manufacturers blamed consumers for choosing cheaper products, which forced them to substitute pricey products with low-cost ones in order to make more profit,” said Chang.

“However, it is the manufacturers' responsibility to honestly label products and allow consumers to clearly know what kind of products they purchase,” said Chang. “Therefore, I cannot accept rice sellers blaming consumers for their wrongful actions.”

Some major sellers from the trade association for rice sellers recently claimed that Taiwan's standard for rice inspection is too strict while rice sellers in Japan do not have to meet the same standards. They urged the COA to loosen the standard so Taiwan can meet the international trend of marking rice products simply.

Farmers and Minor Rice Sellers on CF's Side

Farmers and some minor rice sellers yesterday said that they disagreed with lowering the standards for rice inspections and grading, because such action might affect the quality of local rice.

A farmer in Hualien said that if the rice grading system is canceled, the only loser will be consumers because the quality of local rice will become worse.

He also said that compared to major rice sellers, he cannot make any difference regarding this issue. However, he said, he understands that it is his job as a rice seller to protect consumers.

Yang Ru-men (楊儒門), who is also known as the “Rice Bomber,” said that in Japan, all the rice sellers follow the highest standards when it comes to selling rice, and they only sell high-quality rice.

Yang said that rice sellers in Taiwan do not follow regulations strictly, so it is necessary to have a grading system.

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