Somsak says Public Health Ministry ready to check old rice’s quality

MONDAY, MAY 13, 2024

Public Health Minister Somsak Thepsutin said Monday that his ministry is ready to check the quality and safety of 10-year-old rice in government stocks if formally requested by the Commerce Ministry.

Somsak said if the Commerce Ministry wants to check whether the rice has been contaminated, it must take samples of the rice and send it with a formal request to the Public Health Ministry.

“We won’t collect the rice samples on our own,” Somsak said, adding that the Commerce Ministry has not yet sent any samples for checking.

Somsak was referring to some 15,000 tonnes of jasmine rice kept at two private warehouses in Surin for more than 10 years. The rice had been bought by the government under the rice-pledging scheme of the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai led reporters to visit the two warehouses twice and cooked and ate samples of rice there to try to show that they were still consumable and the rice had not turned rotten as alleged.

Somsak says Public Health Ministry ready to check old rice’s quality

Phumtham said the rice would be sold by auction by next month to recoup the cost for the state.

Health experts have voiced concern that rice that has been kept for 10 years could be contaminated with germs or chemicals that were used to preserve it.

Somsak said he did not know whether the Commerce Ministry would decide to seek help from the Public Health Ministry to check the rice’s quality or not.

Meanwhile, Senator Somchai Sawangkarn alleged that there might be irregularities about the rice kept at the two warehouses.

Somchai, who chairs the Senate committee on human rights and consumer protection, said the Office of the Ombudsman recently published a report that it could not check the rice at the two warehouses in 2022 and 2023 because the rice there had turned rotten and the piles of rice sacks had fallen down.

Somsak says Public Health Ministry ready to check old rice’s quality

Somchai said he wondered why the piles of sacks at the two warehouses looked tidy before, in contrast with the report of the Office of the Ombudsman.

He called for a DNA check on the rice to prove the stockpiles had not been changed.