Is ‘plastic rice’ just a rumour or real?

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Plastic Rice
Plastic Rice

Several towns and cities in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are gripped by fear that unsuspecting consumers are tricked into buying a plastic rice variety, which causes serious health hazards.

The rice is believed to be made in China and Vietnam using plastic / resin material. The first case was reported from Saroornagar in Telangana, where a hotel reportedly served biryani made of plastic rice to a journalist.

News or rumours about plastic egg surfaced in social media, which has now moved into rice. Rumours of plastic egg was first hatched in Kerala and now the rice is in Telugu belt.

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 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 (Actually the video shows how plastic is recycled, but some mischievous element has uploaded it as a plastic rice manufacturing process) to “Ways to spot a fake rice.” And the social media too is cluttered with forwards on the “Chinese conspiracy” behind dumping ‘plastic rice’.

Does India dumped with plastic rice?

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.

Janavignana Vedika, an organisation working to create social awareness, has trashed the news as fear mongering. “It would cost more to produce plastic rice than growing the real one,” its general secretary T Ramesh said.

Some experts point out that while rice is selling at less than 60 rs a kg, the so called plastic that is claimed to be used is more expensive at Rs. 70 a kg, if not more. “So what is the logic? Why would anyone do that,” asks a rice trader