CityGreens Consumer Awareness Initiative. Plastic Rice – Myth or Reality

Since starting this drive 10 weeks back, we have covered various food items and specific adulterants that go in them. This week, for a change, we will try to bust the myth about an adulterant, which does not exist in India. We are talking about Plastic Rice.

Social media is abuzz with reports of Plastic Rice. Food and safety departments in various states have conducted raids. Even Delhi High Court has entertained PILs on Plastic Rice. Yet, there is not a single confirmed case reported anywhere. Thankfully, on a positive note, this has led to spreading of awareness among consumers about the perils of adulteration.  Let’s examine how the claims of plastic rice originated in the first place.

Origin of Plastic Rice Scare
Consider the following chronology of events

  1. In 2010, There were a few cases of adulteration reported in several South Asian countries that imported rice from China. In these cases, superior ‘Wuchang’ rice was mixed with inferior quality rice treated with synthetic resin to make it look like ‘Wuchang’ rice. A couple of news media picked up the synthetic resin part and replaced it with word plastic.
  2. In 2011, a Chinese Restaurant Association official issued a statement that eating three bowls of adulterated rice was akin to eating a plastic bag.
  3. Then, there were several videos on various blogs showing hard balls made of plastic rice

As for the first one, it is a fact that adulteration did happen, and happens even now in all food groups, including rice. As for the second, it was more of an individual’s opinion (not supported by any scientific data – was it 1 bag or half or two, what size bag  😋). The 3rd one is actually true but to any variety of rice, not only plastic. You can repeat this experiment at home with any variety of rice with 100% success rate every time. You can easily google for the science behind this (we will not cover it here).

Ever heard the phrase Chinese Whispers? This is a classic example wherein, what started from an adulteration of synthetic resin in rice, further interpreted as the equivalent of eating a plastic bag, finally ended up getting accepted as Plastic Rice at the long tail.

Is Plastic Rice for real
Well, we do not know for sure. All we know is that there is no authentic established source that details a case where 100% plastic rice was passed as normal rice. We do believe, however, if it will make sense for adulterators to trade in plastic rice and if there is a chance that they could go undetected while doing so, they will try it.

Plastic Rice threat in India
Though we do not know for certain if Plastic Rice is being manufactured in some parts of China, as most reports claim, we do know that the threat of same being available in India is minuscule. Reasons being:

  1. Many Government departments in various states of India have done multiple inspections and raids specifically to look for plastic rice but did not find any.
  2. India is a net exporter of rice while China is one of the largest rice importers in the world. Unlike the claims made in PIL filed at Delhi HC, data suggests that India does not import rice from China (on the contrary, it has started to export).

Thus, we believe, that chances of fake Chiese Plastic Rice, if it exists, landing up at your dinner table are minimal.

So, is my rice free of Plastic
Here comes the catch. Though the rice you are eating may not be made up 100% of plastic, still, there is a possibility of part adulteration and presence of plastic resins.  Here are a few best practices that you can follow before preparing rice:

  • Soak the rice in water for at least an hour before you want to cook it.
  • If you find any rice granules floating at the top, discard them.
  • Rinse the rice thoroughly multiple times to wash away the starch and any added chemicals.

Cook a delicious bowl of rice and enjoy it the way you would like. Rest assured, you are eating real rice. 😀

Stay Safe!

Gaurav is an entrepreneur whose first Start-up was focused on providing services to patients suffering from Chronic Diseases. While researching about the causes of lifestyle diseases and the ways to reduce their incidence, he chanced upon the idea of growing healthy and nutritious food using advanced farming techniques.

He founded CityGreens with a mission to enable City Dwellers to access Safe, Healthy and Fresh food.

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