Doubt Cast On Reports Of 'Stringent' FDA Thai Rice Inspection

(28 June) Trade office of the Thai government based in Los Angeles has released statement dismissing reports circulated by a number of Thai media agencies that the US food agency is preventing Thai rice exports from passing through American ports due to possible chemical contamination.

Previously, Thai Rath, the best-selling newspaper in Thailand, has devoted its front page to reports that the  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered "every port" in the US to urgently quarantine rice grains exported from Thailand.

On the 6th page of the newspaper, Thai Rath quoted an unidentified ′′foreign news agency" saying that the FDA specifically ordered "every container" carrying Thai rice inspected out of fear that the grains processed under Thai government′s rice mortgage scheme contained dangerous level of insecticide chemicals.

The newspapers also included quote from an unnamed "rice exporter" who claimed that the US alert is one of the biggest issues for rice trading in the past 20-30 years as it could affect Thai rice export growth and confidence among consumers.

"The US has never inspected Thai rice in every container. Its measure has affected confidence in Thai rice quality. The Thai government needs to clarify these doubts clearly to the public," the unnamed individual reportedly told Thai Rath.

However, a report on the website of The Nation, the well-known English newspaper based in Bangkok, appears to carry the very same quotes that appeared on Thai Rath. The Nation′s report included bothreports from unidentified "foreign news agency" and the unnamed source.

"The US FDA has ordered every port such as in New York and Chicago to confine Thai rice for random inspection. … The source said that such stringent inspection has created concern among American importers as well as Thai rice exporters. Importers could easily turn to order rice from other rice export countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia," The Nation website reported. The exact same quotes can be found in Thai Rath story on the matter.

It is not clear who copied whom. The search for news about FDA and Thai rice on the Internet by our correspondent has turned up only a report which appears in the website of Thai Financial Post. 

However, the story is remarkably different to the one reported by both Thai Rath and The Nation. According to Thai Financial Post, it was the Thai Ministry of Public Heath that instructed the FDA to inspect the rice in the American market for possible chemical contaminations "in its bid to raise the nation′s rice standard to match the Good Manufacturing Practices, or GMP".

The story on the said website did not mention any plan by the FDA to quarantine Thai rice nor the "stringent" inspection reported by Thai Rath and The Nation.

The claim about FDA′s quarantine of Thai rice also appeared on Manager Online, the media agency operated by key members of the Yellowshirt movements – the fierce critics of the government under PM Yingluck Shinawatra.

Manager Online and other Yellowshirts-allied media outlets have been sharply criticizing the Yingluck administration′s rice subsidy program – or any other policy undertaken by the Prime Minister, for that matter. The Yellowshirts are self-declared enemies of Ms. Yingluck′s brother, Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, whom they viewed as a corrupt, anti-monarchy tyrant.

The report on Manager Online bears many similar wordings to that of The Nation and Thai Rath. Manager Online claimed a "source inside rice export industry" as provider of their story.

Meanwhile, the Thai Trade Center in Los Angeles, which operates under Thai Ministry of Commerce, released statement denying the report carried by Thai Rath, The Nation, and Manager Online. 

In the statement signed by Ms. Pilai Siripanich, Executive Director of the LA-based Trade Center, it says that  ports management and rice buyer companies in California contacted by the Center about the matter denied that there is any known quarantine order to Thai rice exports.