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Public health experts warn of Chinese genetic rice

PUBLISHED: 23:14 17 April 2008 | UPDATED: 13:12 05 October 2010

PUBLIC health bosses have issued a warning in East London about 'genetically modified' rice being sold in the shops. Officials at Tower Hamlets are urging stores, wholesalers and importers to be aware that some rice and rice products from China which may be contaminated with the modified Bt63 organism

By Mike Brooke

PUBLIC health bosses have issued a warning in East London about 'genetically modified' rice being sold in the shops.

Officials at Tower Hamlets are urging stores, wholesalers and importers to be aware that some rice and rice products from China may be contaminated with the genetically modified Bt63 organism.

They sent out 700 letters yesterday (Wednesday) to traders after Tuesday's Food Standards Agency ban on all rice imports containing the organism.

Chief environmental health officer Farida Butt told the East London Advertiser: "This organism is now illegal to be sold. The onus is on retailers and importers to check their products.

"We have sent out letters to all stockists and it might lead to random sampling to see if there's any contaminated rice."

No direct health risk has been established, officials admit, but the ban is an 'emergency precaution' issued by the EU.

"The organism should be considered 'unsafe' as it hasn't been tested," explained Farida.

"More research needs to be carried out, which is why products with Bt63 must legally be taken off the shelves."

She adds: "Anyone who thinks they may have sold rice with Bt63 should ask their customers to return the products and should also contact the local authority."

Imports from China as from April 15 now need a certificate declaring they are free of the organism.

They cannot be sold unless they have an original certificate from a laboratory in China saying they do not contain 'Bt63' or have by a certificate from the UK food authority with the results of sampling being satisfactory.

Rice products without the certificate are being removed this week from public sale.

Bt63 won't be on the list of ingredients on packets. But the Food Agency has drawn up a list of products thought most likely to contain the organism:

mike.brooke@archant.co.uk

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