More than 100 bags of “fake rice” believed to have been smuggled in from China were seized on Monday in Nigeria.
With Christmas and New Year holidays coming up, the price of rice has skyrocketed in the West African nation, creating an opportunity for unscrupulous entrepreneurs with access to plastic, or whatever these grains are made out of.
According to the AFP, the 50-kilo bags of plastic rice were branded “Best Tomato Rice,” but were not labeled with a date of manufacture. They were picked up in the city of Lagos and a senior Nigerian customs official suspected that the 102 bags were smuggled or shipped illegally to the port there from China.
Officials warned residents that you really wouldn’t want to eat this “rice.”
“Before now, I thought it was a rumour that the plastic rice is all over the country but with this seizure, I have been totally convinced that such rice exists,” a local customs controller told the Nigerian Observer. “We have done a preliminary analysis of the plastic rice. After boiling, it was sticky and only God knows what would have happened if people consumed it.”
Last year, plastic rice sold on the Chinese market reportedly found its way into various Asian countries, including India, Indonesia and Vietnam. While it appeared similar to actual rice, it was actually made from mixing potatoes, sweet potatoes and synthetic resin. Health experts warned that the fake grains could cause serious damage to the digestive system if consumed.
However, a lengthy article from the rumor-busing website Snopes.com casts doubt on this purported plague of fake rice from China, finding little to no evidence for the vast majority of the claims that have caused panic around the world.
Nigerian authorities have sent this latest batch of “fake rice” to be tested, so its composition currently remains unconfirmed. But apparently it looked authentic enough to trick BBC reporter Martin Patience who writes:
Whoever made this fake rice did an exceptionally good job – on first impression it would have fooled me. When I ran the grains through my fingers nothing felt out of the ordinary.
But when I smelt a handful of the “rice” there was a faint chemical odour. Customs officials say when they cooked up the rice it was too sticky – and it was then abundantly clear this was no ordinary batch.
Anyway, just to be on the safe side, better to eat noodles than rice for Christmas this year.
[Images via BBC]