Some farmers were ordered to destroy 200 tonnes of greens, after some red dye from a neighbouring airbase was found to have tainted them. This dye was a result of a test by the neighbouring aerial display team to create a red plume of smoke in the exhaust.

Unfortunately, due to wind directions, the dye landed on some 6 farms in Lorong Semangka, resulting in produce that’s tainted with red dye.

When I first red the caption from the photo, it said "CANNOT BE EATEN: Crops at six farms in the Lorong Semangka area were stained with dye that was not approved for use in food. — ST PHOTO: DOMINIC WONG", and the first thing that came to my mind was that the farmers had used unapproved red dye on their produce. It was only upon further reading that I realised that the red dye was from the neighbouring Tengah Air Base.

I thought the caption was rather misleading, and it doesn’t help that the report stated that "these farms were ordered to destroy the crops as tests showed that the dye was not approved for use in food".

Hmm… anyway, Mindef will apparently compensate a reasonable amount of claim. You know what is a reasonable amount for me as a consumer? It’s 1 cent per kg of Kangkong.

SOME farmers and people living near Tengah Air Base have, literally, been seeing red the past week after the area was doused with droplets of red dye last Friday.

Six vegetable farms have been told to destroy 200 tonnes – about 10 lorry-loads – of the stained caixin, kangkong and other leafy vegetables.

This comes a week after The Straits Times received a flurry of complaints on its Stomp website that cars, crops and even someone’s pet cat had been sprinkled with what people thought was ‘red paint’.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Defence cleared the air.

It said the dye was released by an aircraft being tested on the ground for about 20 minutes at about 2pm last Friday.

The Straits Times understands that the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s Black Knights aerial display team was testing the dye to create a red plume of smoke in the exhaust of an F-16C fighter jet.

Strong winds carried the smoke into the area south-east of the base.

Colonel Darius Lim, Mindef’s director of public affairs, said: ‘We are currently conducting further investigations and have suspended all such trials. Standard aviation dye was used in this trial.’

He assured the public that ‘the amount of red dye deposited will not cause adverse health effects when inhaled or when in contact with the skin’.

Neighbouring the airbase is a cluster of vegetable farms. Officers from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) checked 46 vegetable farms in the Sungei Tengah and Lim Chu Kang Agrotechnology parks.

They found that six farms in the Lorong Semangka area in Sungei Tengah had crops that were stained.

These farms were ordered to destroy the crops as tests showed that the dye was not approved for use in food.

AVA officers will check the farms today to ensure that the produce is destroyed and disposed of properly.

None of the stained produce left the farms.

The AVA added that all vegetables sold in wet markets and supermarkets are safe.

One farmer estimated his losses to be $70,000 and said he has to wait another three to four weeks for the next harvest.

Another farmer, Mr Wong Kok Fah, who said he will lose more than 10 tonnes of crops, asked: ‘How am I going to pay my staff?’

The dye did not affect the nearby Kranji Reservoir, according to the PUB, the national water agency.

Water samples from the area where the six farms are located have also been collected for testing, said Mr Tan Nguan Sen, the PUB’s director of catchment and waterways.

Not so lucky was a resident in Teck Whye who made a police report last Friday after discovering red spots the size of pin heads on his white Honda Civic car.

‘I would like to know who will compensate me for the damage to the car’s paintwork,’ he said.

Col Lim said: ‘We are in direct contact with the affected farms to address their concerns. All reasonable claims arising from this incident will be considered and compensation will be paid accordingly.’

jessicaj@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from 1st December 2007



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