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Mainland producers get blame for mixed rice scandal

Date Posted: 2003-10-24

Mainland rice producers are getting the blame for a recent scandal uncovered on Okinawa. A spokesman for Ryukyu Food Co., at a press conference Monday, laid the blame of last week’s mixed rice scandal at mainland rice growers. “It turned out that the growers had mixed the high quality Koshihikari rice with a lesser quality brand. They have apologized and promised never to do such thing in the future,” the spokesman said.

The controversy started when the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper discovered a lot of prime-brand Koshihikari Rice that had been mixed with lesser quality rice. The rice had been on sale at a local supermarket as a 100% pure Koshihikari. The spokesman also said the company intends to implement tight quality controls in the future to prevent similar incidents from occurring. “Up to now we trusted the growers, but we intend to conducts regular DNA testing in the future to make sure that the rice is what the growers claim it to be,” the spokesman said.

The company acknowledged that the scandal had cost the company more than Y20 million as supermarkets returned unsold rice. “We will sell the tainted rice for pig feed at considerable loss. However, we will not take the growers to court for this to seek compensation,” the spokesman said. A JA cooperative spokesman said that part of the problem was that the Ryukyu Food Co. bought rice directly from farmers, bypassing JA. “We inspect all rice that goes through us for quality and it would be impossible for mixed rice to get through to store shelves,” a JA spokesman said.

Many rice farmers prefer to sell their product straight to wholesalers as they can get two to three times the price for their rice the cooperative would pay them. The Ryukyu Food Co. spokesman defended the company’s practice of buying straight from growers. “We have bought straight from producers for years, and have never had any quality problems. I believe this incident is very exceptional and I don’t expect to have a similar problem in the future considering the additional quality controls we have in place from now on,” the Ryukyu Food spokesman said. Officials at the Prefecture General Bureau said that they would keep a stricter eye on the quality of rice in the future. “We have a duty of making sure that people get what they are paying for, and are prepared to increase inspections,” an official said.

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