Insecticide-Tainted Rice Found in Chongqing Supermarkets

September 7, 2009 5:01 am Last Updated: September 7, 2009 5:52 am

Mr. Chen Jin discovered a small bottle of potent [smelling], off-white powder in a 10-kilo bag of rice he purchased from the Xinhao Supermarket in Chongqing on August 31. The mystery powder was aluminum phosphide, a chemical compound commonly used as an insecticide for stored grains, according to Chongqing Evening News.

Chen remembered seeing the same kind of bottle in his rice bag during a previous purchase, but at the time, he did not think much of it and threw the container away. This time, the label on the bottle,“Aluminum Phosphide – Not for Indoor Use,” caught his eye.

Chen became concerned and took the bottle to the supermarket manager, Li Zhongxing, demanding an explanation. “The manager quickly took the bottle back, and after beating around the bush, he finally said that it was [an insecticide] used to kill rice pests,” said Chen.

Unethical use of insecticide

When Li first began selling bulk rice at his market about four years ago, he couldn’t figure out a way to prevent insects from infesting the rice, especially during seasonal temperature spikes. Last year, Li heard that aluminum phosphide was an effective treatment, so he purchased some from the local agriculture supply store for one yuan per bottle. He knows that the insecticide is harmful, but says, “One yuan can save 3,000 to 4,000 kilos of rice. In today’s society, if you don’t think up schemes in doing business, how can you make money?”

Mr. Shi, the owner of a local seed and pesticide store, said that aluminum phosphide is extremely toxic and is used to get rid of pests from dried corn and rice after harvest. However, it cannot be purchased by just anyone. Shi said that Li’s method of placing the insecticide inside rice bags is unacceptable and constitutes “murdering people for the sake of making money.”

Li’s supermarket wasn’t the only one using this method; three other markets confirmed the use of aluminum phosphide in their rice storage. “At first, some people wrapped aluminum phosphide in cloth and placed it in the rice,” the owner of another local store stated. He said, “Now, people find this method too much of a hassle, so they simply drill a hole in the side of the bottle [and place the bottle inside the rice bags].”

Poisonous fumes

Last October, a Sichuan pharmaceutical warehouse used aluminum phosphide in an attempt to prevent drug degradation and insect infestation. As a result, a 24-year old man living above the warehouse was killed in his sleep by the poisonous fumes released.

In February, another pharmaceutical warehouse in the eastern suburb of Xi’an also employed the use of aluminum phosphide, and the fumes poisoned seven people who eventually recovered after emergency treatment.

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