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Jan 23, 1998

Rice shipment questioned in Trinidad

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A major controversy is cooking in Trinidad over four million dollars worth of questionable rice, which was imported from India. The rice, consigned to National Flour Mills, left India in July but did not reach Trinidad until December. It then languished at the docks for another month while officials sorted out the paperwork. This week it was offloaded, amidst concern that the rice may have spoiled during its long voyage at sea. That voyage, by the way, if you look closely, was aboard a ship of Belizean registry. The T.T.T.’s Denise Moore has the story.

The Food and Drugs Division was looking at aflatoxin levels and checking the rice to determine whether it contained toxins dangerous to humans. Tests were carried out on ten samples taken from different levels and different parts of the two forty nine foot deep holes aboard the “Ruby Islands,” the vessel which brought the rice to Trinidad. The Government chemist detected toxins in only one sample but even that was in levels way below the levels which the United States Food and Drug Administration considers unsafe for human consumption. The National Flour Mills and the Food and Drugs Division have agreed to use the F.D.A. guidelines for the tests. None of the toxins was found in any of the other eight samples. These are said to be the most important of the three sets of tests being conducted. T.T.T. News understands that the test done by the Food and Drugs Division is the one that will determine whether the rice will be put on the market. There seems to be less doubt about that now that it has been cleared for use. The Caribbean Industrial Research Institute, CIRI, and a laboratory in the United States are conducting different types of micro-biological tests. Those results are not yet in. The rice was said to have been cooked and eaten by officials of the National Flour Mills. Sources say it tasted and looked the same as rice usually imported by the company. Before it was cooked, it appeared a little darker than normal but this was attributed to heat damage caused because it stayed so long in the hole of the ship. It’s felt that this will not affect the quality of the rice. Denise Moore, T.T.T. News.

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