7 000 bags of rotten rice dumped
Freetown - Sierra Leone dock workers began tossing 7 000 contaminated bags of imported rice into a river on Thursday to prevent them from going to markets in of one of the world's poorest states, the standards bureau said.
Surrounded by heavily armed police, hundreds of dock workers tossed the rice into the Mabang river in northern Sierra Leone, 35km from the capital where scores of baby crocodiles surfaced intermittently as the rice hit the water.
"We have taken the rice that far to ensure that rogue marketeers would not reclaim the rice and sell it," said the director of Sierra Leone's standards bureau, James Dumbuya.
The rice, which was brought into the country by a Lebanese importer from Vietnam in December last year, was "certified as rotten and unfit for consumption by four health watchdog organisations including the Consumer Protection Agency and the Civil Society," Dumbuya said.
He said the contamination was a a result of ship leakage.
Huge crowds watched the operation, while others, mainly market women, milled around carrying empty bags.
It was not clear how many people had become ill from eating the rice.
"It's nothing too severe and we treated and sent home about 10 people including a pregnant woman," a doctor at a private clinic said.
The west African nation often has to dump suspect contaminated food such as eggs, rice, tomato paste and onions due to a lack of modern testing equipment.