Officials say food at S. Korean commissaries isn't included in recall
SEOUL — U.S. military officials say locally purchased commissary goods are not included in a South Korean recall of some produce and crops that have tested higher than acceptable for lead and cadmium levels.
The South Korean government has not issued any official warnings to consumers but has recalled thousands of food items grown near mines no longer in use, according to the Korean Food and Drug Administration Web site.
Some of the recalled items include rice, Chinese cabbage, soybeans, radishes, corn, red beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach and scallions.
Produce stocked at U.S. commissaries here “are mostly organically or hydroponically grown and therefore not included in the ‘mine’ farms included on the report,” according to Col. Stan Smith, commander of the 106th Medical Detachment, which inspects food supplies at the commissaries.
The Yangjae Agricultural Cooperative Marketing agency in Seoul has a $2.5 million contract to provide produce to the U.S. commissaries in Korea, according to Kim Il-sup, who works in the agency’s overseas trade department.
Kim said the cooperative regularly tests for heavy metal contamination. He said Wednesday that none of the produce provided to the commissaries comes from the mine areas. Single farms that fail a quality test three consecutive times are banned from the military contract, he said.
The cooperative has had the contract with the U.S. military for seven years and has had no contamination complaints in that time, Kim said.
Commissaries in South Korea buy up to 45 produce items from organic farmers, said Wayne Walk, the zone manager at Yongsan Garrison for the Defense Commissary Agency.
The recall is based on a July 2005 survey in 44 places near abandoned mines, according to the Korean FDA.
The report was disclosed Tuesday in results of joint research conducted by the Korean FDA and ministries of Environment; Agriculture and Forestry; and Commerce, Industry and Energy.
Of 757 rice samples, 27.5 percent were contaminated with more than the permitted level of lead and 8.1 percent with cadmium, according to the South Korean FDA.
One product contained 3.51 parts per million of cadmium, far more than the nation’s permitted level of 0.2 ppm.
The agency declined to name the nine areas throughout the peninsula that tested high for lead and cadmium.