Is ‘plastic rice’ for real?

Thursday, June 8th, 2017, 4:37 am

Telangana Civil Supplies Department flooded with complaints about hotels using ‘plastic rice’ in their food items

The Telangana Civil Supplies Department is being flooded with complaintsabout hotels in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad using ‘plastic rice’ in their food items. Samples have been collected from various hotels to verify the claims. And this is not limited to Telangana alone. Over the past few years, rumours of ‘plastic rice’ being sold have been doing the rounds and a public interest litigation was even filed before the Delhi High Court .

The origin

The term ‘plastic rice’ first surfaced in China in 2010. Dubbed the Wuchang rice scandal, Chinese officials unearthed a scam by companies who passed off ordinary rice as premium Wuchang rice by adding flavours to it. The Wuchang rice, known for its unique aroma, is exported to various nations. Chinese traders are believed to have made a huge profit through this scam.

In 2011, a report by The Korea Times said: “Some distributors are selling fake rice in Taiyuan, Shaanxi Province, and this rice is a mixture of potatoes, sweet potatoes and plastic.” Needless to say, the report mentioned in detail the hazards of eating synthetic resin. Thus the term ‘plastic rice’ came into existence.

The BBC, last December, reported that a huge shipment of ‘plastic rice’ was seized in Nigeria, making it the first major confiscation. Days later, Nigeria ruled out plastic in the confiscated shipment. “The rice was contaminated with bacteria,” Nigeria’s National Agency For Food and Drugs said.

Apart from these two reports, the mainstream media doesn’t have much information on ‘plastic rice’. But the web is flooded with information ranging from YouTube videos on how it is manufactured to “Ways to spot a fake rice.” And the social media too is cluttered with forwards on the “Chinese conspiracy” behind dumping ‘plastic rice’.

Fact check

So is ‘plastic rice’ real? Unfortunately, there is no credible answer to this question. As far as India is concerned, ‘plastic rice’ has never been seized so far, though time and again there have been reports of demonstrations against such rice. Fact verification website snopes.com said the claim stands “unproven”.

In a report, it said, “The plastic rice story [and its fellow counterfeit Chinese food export legends] resemble an internationally viral 2007 CCTV segment about pork buns purportedly made with scrap cardboard, for which an independent journalist was eventually detained and accused of faking the oft-referenced story.”