Reports have been circulating online and in some global newspapers that some Chinese companies have been making and mixing rice sized and shaped plastic pellets into real rice.  But is this true or yet another urban legend?

Some large and usually reputable news sources, such as the BBC have reported it. So, what is the reality? First, let's see what the news says.

News Stories about "Plastic Rice"

  1. BBC,  December 21, 2016, the BBC published a story reporting that fake plastic rice had been seized in Nigeria. The story says:
    "Nigeria has confiscated 2.5 tons of "plastic rice" smuggled into the country by unscrupulous businessmen, the customs service says." and authorities "did not explain how the plastic rice was made but said it had been branded as "Best Tomato Rice".".
  2. CNN 'Plastic' or not? Over 100 bags of fake rice seized in Nigeria; December 23, 2016.
    Nigerian authorities have seized 2.5 metric tons of reportedly fake rice during the holiday season.
    "If you look at it it's rice. If you look at the pictures it's rice. If you cook it and eat it it's rice. It's only when you touch it you'll feel it that you realize it's not," Attah told CNN.
    "That's why I call it fake rice, not plastic rice. To me it's more like flour coated in maybe rubber... I don't know the kind of formulations or chemicals they use," he said.
  3. Daily Mail UK, November 10, 2016.  You can see the video on the Daily Mail website
    Could your rice be made out of PLASTIC? Shocking footage of 'an underground food factory' sparks fears of fake grains
    Video shows a worker producing white granules out of plastic
    Many people in China claimed the man was making fake rice
    Fears of toxic grains have spread on Chinese social media
    However, other claimed the final product was for industrial us
  4. Korean Times, January 20, 2011 Reports:
    Chinese fake rice is on shelves.
    The Korean-language Weekly Hong Kong in Hong Kong quoted Singapore media that “Fake rice made out of plastic is massively sold on the Chinese market.” According to the report, some distributors are selling fake rice in Taiyuan, Shaanxi Province, and this rice is a mixture of potatoes, sweet potatoes and plastic.
    “T“This ‘plastic rice’ is made by forming potatoes and sweet potatoes into rice-like shape, then adding industrial synthetic resins,” said a food expert. “

Is it True?  If So, What to do.

Yet, Snopes. com and others cast doubt on the truth of the rumor. But notably, they did not include the Daily Mail in their sources or review, and that source has video of what they describe as a fake rice manufacturing operation in China.

So it seems likely that some fake rice has been made and shipped.  Whether it was made from plastic, or from similar but cheaper food substances like flour or other starches, we can't say.  And of course, there could be more than one operation, using different methods.  Or it could all be a hoax.  It really doesn't matter much if you are in the United States as it does not appear as there is much (if any) rice being imported to the US. Most American rice is grown in Arkansas, Louisiana and north-central California, along with some in Texas, Mississippi, Missouri and Florida.  And some specialty rice, like Jasmine from Thailand, Arborio from Italy,, is imported from other countries.

Conclusion

Buy your rice from reputable sources and known establiushed brands.  ANd if you want to worry about eating rice, maybe your concern should be about the arsenic that is being found in many rice samples.  See this page for the arsenic in rice story.  Good luck sleeping, if you like rice...

 

Related Counterfeit Food Stories

  1. Fake Tofu, Cina.org.cn,  December 29, 2010, "Factories shut for producing bogus tofu", "Two factories in Wuhan, Hubei Province, have been closed by local authorities for producing and selling fake tofu products that experts say are detrimental to health."
  2. Fake Steamed Pork Buns, T, The Guardian, July 13, 2007 ; "Paper profit for Chinese stalls' cardboard buns, Customers buy steamed buns at a roadside stall in Beijing; Customers buy steamed buns at a roadside stall in Beijing. Chopped cardboard, softened in an industrial chemical and made tasty with pork flavouring, is a main ingredient in batches of steamed buns sold in a Beijing neighbourhood, state television said. The report highlights the country's perennial problems with food safety despite government efforts to improve the situation. China Central Television's undercover investigation, aired on Wednesday, features the maker of the buns - called baozi - talking about how the product was sold in Beijing's sprawling Chaoyang district."

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