Red potatoes are a delicacy, and though not frequently used in mashed potatoes as some other varieties are, these potatoes are popular as a boiled, seasoned potato and are used in many types of potato salad.
On Thursday however, one lodge owner, Bart Mickler of Maya Mountain Lodge, Cayo District, wrote to the Belize Agriculture and Health Authority, BAHA, alleging that he recently bought a fresh supply of red potatoes being sold at the market in Cayo, only to find out that they are white Mexican Contraband potatoes dyed red. As a result, guests from other lodges who had also bought this same potato are reportedly getting sick.
The letter, which is addressed to the Agriculture Coordinator for the Cayo District, says that, “On Tuesday we purchased what we understood was the new crop of Belizean red potatoes for use at our tourism lodge. When we reached the lodge and they were inspected more carefully we discovered that they were Mexican contraband white potatoes which had been dyed red with an unknown dye. Further dialog with other lodges revealed sick guests with these tainted Mexican potatoes as the suspected cause.”
The letter further named an individual who allegedly is involved in these illegal contrabands.
The Mexican white potatoes are not illegal in the country, so why would anyone want to disguise these potatoes as red potatoes?
Robert Harrison, Chief Agriculture Officer, in the Ministry of Agriculture, shed some light into this peculiar situation.
“You need to understand that the harvest of local potatoes started last week, and the peak of production will be just about now.
These importers can import these potatoes at a cheaper cost that what the local potatoes are selling [for]. So they’re trying to make a profit or a gain, based on the price of the locally produced potatoes.
Again, let me reiterate, the consumer should not purchase or consume these products that are dyed.”
The Quarantine Department of BAHA is currently on the ground confiscating these products, which have a potential health risk to consumers. The public is being advised not to purchase the red dyed potato.