The rice saga between Importer Jack Charles and local producers continues and from all indications it won’t die anytime soon. Jack Charles’ latest move against rice producers comes in the form of a complaint alleging that the local rice is contaminated. The news first broke last week when reports suggested that Charles had informed the Ministry of Agriculture that the local rice was contaminated with some kind of fungus and that they should look into it.
At that time both the Director of BAHA, Emir Cruz and the Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero denied having knowledge about the complaint and the CEO in the Ministry of Agriculture, Jose Alpuche did not even comment on the issue.
Jack Charles though, persisted that Belize’s rice was contaminated but offered no proof. Today Charles continued with his quest as he issued a release which states that based on the Standards (Declaration of Compulsory Standard) Order 2015 Gazetted in October 2015 by the Bureau of Standards, he took the responsibility to test the locally produced rice to see whether it met the requirements of the new Standard.
The report of the analysis shows that a sample of the Best Value Ruby Rice and Circle R Premium Rice, both locally produced, e Creek, was sent to Eurofins Analytical Laboratories in New Orleans.
The results of both analysis show that the rice had less than 2 micro grams per kilogram of Aflatoxin B1, B2, G1 and G2, a microbiological contaminant that is said to be a cancer causing agent.
Now, the level of Aflatoxin found in the local rice is what Jack Charles says is of concern to him because the law states that local rice should be free of Microbiological contaminants and chemicals for example Aflatoxin which is created by improper storage.
According to Charles’ release the results of the analysis were forwarded on February 1st, 2016 to the Bureau of Standards, Public Health as well as to BAHA and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Today the Ministry of Agriculture refused to speak on the issue. But attorney for the local rice producers did not do the same. Via a text message Eamon Courtney told the media and we quote “"The test results establish that Belizean produced rice is safe for human consumption. Mr Charles' press release amounts to a libel on my client’s good name. This latest desperate attack by the importer is misleading and calculated to cause panic in the Belizean community. It confirms what I said he will do absolutely anything in order to make a profit by supporting imported rice."
Reports on the internet show that for Aflatoxin to have an effect the product must have 4 micrograms per kilogram. Viewers might recall that some weeks ago Charles wanted to import Guyanese rice into the country but he was stopped by BAHA. Belizeans consume 12 thousand tons of rice annually.
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