Source of tainted greens unregistered

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2006, 12:00am

Greenpeace calls for system to trace origin of vegetables

Vegetables found to contain excessive pesticides at Wellcome supermarkets in February came from at least one unregistered farm and two wholesale centres on the mainland, Greenpeace revealed yesterday.

The environmental group said mainland authorities confirmed Dutch beans from a Wellcome store in Tin Shui Wai came from an unregistered farm in Shaoguan , Guangdong. Greenpeace said the discovery highlighted the need to plug loopholes that allowed imports of such produce and to have the industry, government and shops adopt systems for tracing vegetables from farm to store shelf.

The group obtained from Wellcome in mid-April a summary of the investigation into the sources of 13 vegetable samples from branches in Tin Shui Wai and Sha Tin between November and March found to contain banned pesticides and excessive levels of other chemicals.

The source of one sample was identified as a farm in Shaoguan. The rest could only be traced to the wholesale markets in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Two of the markets on the mainland were found to be unregistered.

In a letter to Greenpeace, the Vegetables Association of Hong Kong alleged that at least 60 trucks of vegetables from unregistered farms and wholesalers passed through the border every day without being inspected by food safety officials. The group suspects some importers mix vegetables of unknown origin with those from registered sources, and that some use forged documentation for imports.

'The food safety officials have been hiding the truth that some vegetables came from an unregistered farm. Yet they kept telling us things are fine and the public should feel safe consuming vegetables,' said Apple Chow Yuen-ping, assistant campaigner for Greenpeace.

Ms Chow said the ParknShop supermarket chain had earlier identified four registered farms as the sources of leafy vegetables with excessive pesticides. But it could only trace two samples of tomatoes and one of French beans to wholesale markets in Panyu and Hainan .

Wellcome said it no longer accepted vegetables from unregistered farms and wholesalers, and had stopped buying from Hong Kong wholesale markets lacking tracing systems.

'By the end of August, we will have ceased buying root vegetables from mainland wholesale markets, and all leafy vegetables from the mainland are now sourced back to the farm,' it said.

However, Wellcome said full traceability could only be achieved with the co-operation of all parties in the supply chain.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said it would follow up with the industry on a tracing system.



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