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Chamber Says Chawla’s Allegations are Without Merit

Up until Wednesday there was a lull in the rice saga involving businessman, Jitandra Chawla.  That silence came after the courts ruled in favor of the local rice producers and ordered that he return his containers of Guyanese rice thus taking it out of the country.  Chawla’s silence, however, was not a sign of resignation but rather, a time that he was taking to send out samples of local rice for testing.  He sent out the results of those tests earlier this week with an allegation that the local rice that Belizeans are consuming has a cancer causing agent called aflatoxins.  The Belize Bureau of Standards fired back via a press release Wednesday saying that is not the case while the attorney for the local rice producers, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay has said that the Chawla’s release amounts to a libel on the good name of his clients.  Today, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry weighed in on the matter via a release that reads, quote, “The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) condemns the allegations made this week about the Belizean rice industry. The FDA and other Food Safety agencies in developed countries have set allowable [safe] limits for aflatoxins in all foods, including milk. According to the report sent to the media, the tests allegedly carried out on Belizean rice samples found aflatoxins to be well within those limits and therefore safe for consumption. BAHA’s requirement that the rice be ‘free of microbiological contaminants and chemicals’ is interpreted as requiring levels within allowable limits such as those stipulated by the FDA. These accusations are clearly without merit, and obviously meant to cause consumer panic without any care for potential damage to the Belizean economy, the reputation of the rice industry or BAHA’s institutional reputation. Issuing such an inflammatory report on the rice industry is irresponsible and clearly intended to force an opening for rice importation. Belizean consumers have a right to benefit from honest competition which encourages quality and beneficial pricing. Belizean producers who contribute to our economy should not find themselves disparaged by spurious allegations made purely for competitive gain.”  End of quote.