● Rumours went viral on social media after a video supposedly showing mixed rice varieties including plastic rice being openly sold at supermarkets
● Suspicious samples sent to Medical Research Institute for testing
● Researchers debunk the rumors saying it’s not scientifically possible
● Health Ministry on high alert
● Ministry of Industry and Commerce calls the latest video a hoax
● Lanka Sathosa says there’s no truth to new claims
Researchers and scientists alike have debunked rumours on plastic rice being sold in Sri Lanka adding that the latest video which went viral on social media platforms only serves to cook up a storm.
Popular social media platforms were a flurry of activity this past week when a video supposedly showing mixed rice varieties including plastic rice being sold in supermarkets went viral.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce was quick to point out that the video was a hoax and an attempt by certain elements to tarnish the image of Lanka Sathosa.
“The video shows that basmati rice purchased from Pitakotte outlet of Lanka Sathosa does not become stale (like other Basmati rice varieties) even after 24 hours of cooking it, and when a ball of such cooked rice is dropped on the floor, the (ball of) rice does not disintegrate,” a statement said.
The rice shown in the video was a variety of Basmati imported to Sri Lanka from Pakistan on 15 May, 2017 for Lanka Sathosa. The Ministry asserted that there were slight differences in glutinous texture when a sample of rice from Pitakotte Lanka Sathosa was subjected to a lab test. According to the analyst, the test showed that the rice although slightly glutinous was still edible.
Hot on the heels of the latest revelation, the Ministry of Health called for a hurried press conference in an attempt to muffle widespread panic among citizens that plastic rice was being passed onto consumers as edible rice varieties.
The Ministry asserted that suspicious rice samples were sent to the Medical Research Institute for testing. Acting Director of Health, Dr. JMW Jayasundara requested the general public to test the rice samples at home, by either soaking them in water, crushing them or heating them.
Nation also spoke to City Analyst RMGB Rajanayake who debunked the latest video adding that people should not refrain from eating or buying rice from stores and instead should be able to check for themselves the legitimacy of such dumbfounded claims.
“I can say with certainty that we have not found any samples that conform to the plastic like quality as depicted in the video from Colombo,” he said. “We advice consumers who purchase these brands to check for themselves and not be guided by paranoia or fear.”
Dr. AK Karunarathna, Senior Lecturer of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Peradeniya also told Nation that it was not chemically or scientifically possible to mix the varieties.
“To me it appears that there is a huge misunderstanding, if one considers the chemical compositions or the form, plastic from the manufacturers come in the form of granules, much like rice. For someone who understands the difference, it is easy to spot, but not for the laymen, who can be deceived into believing that this is a rice variety when it’s not,” he said.
Dr. Karunarathna, also added that the price of such plastic granules is twice or thrice the times of the price of rice, which makes it uneconomical for someone who wishes to make money as it would cost the person more to buy plastic as opposed to rice. “The volume of plastic is also not equivalent to rice, which means the individual will have to purchase more plastic to make up for the same volume of rice.”
He also added that unlike the experiment shown in the video, low density plastic when heated liquefy which makes it difficult to cook unlike rice. He further stated that all evidence goes to prove that this venture is neither profitable nor easy to undertake which puts the legitimacy of the claims made in the video in quandary.
Meanwhile in India
‘Plastic rice’ creates a scare in Hyderabad
What started as a stray complaint about ‘usage of plastic rice by a hotel’ in Saroornagar three days ago turned into a scary issue last week with more such complaints reaching the Indian officials.
Taking a serious note of the growing number of complaints and apprehensions expressed by people, Telangana State Civil Supplies Department swung into action by collecting samples of rice from different suppliers. The samples were sent to the department’s laboratory for analysis.
A Task Force of the department — comprising four officers and headed by retired police officer Sampath — had collected samples of rice from Kukatpally, Meerpet, Saroornagar and other places.
“We are awaiting the test findings to initiate action. A person, Ashok, approached Meerpet police alleging that the rice he purchased from a miller was made of plastic,” Civil Supplies Commissioner CV Anand said. The TF team collected sample of rice from the place mentioned as well.
Though unconfirmed reports about ‘plastic rice’ had been doing rounds and circulating through social media and WhatsApp, the first controversy erupted when a Telugu TV news channel employee charged that he found plastic rice in the biryani which he purchased from a hotel in Saroornagar. When he went to the hotel for questioning, some persons present there beat him up badly triggering speculation that it was an attempt to ‘suppress the plastic rice issue’.
Even as investigation into his complaint was on, similar complaints emerged last week. A resident of Nandanavanam Colony, Ashok, and inmates of a boys’ hostel in Ameerpet and another person Chakri of Begum Bazar alleged that the rice they had purchased from different sellers was ‘plastic rice’.
“Some of them claimed that when they hurled the lumps of the cooked plastic rice, they rebounded. Inmates of the Ameerpet hostel charged that they were served an egg of plastic and it didn’t smell like the original one,” the police said. However, no criminal cases were registered.
5 simple tips to identify plastic rice
Here are five simple tips to identify plastic rice.
1. The water test:
Take a glass of water, drop a tablespoon of raw rice inside and stir it for some time. If the rice float then it is could be plastic. Rice does not float on water.
2. The fire test:
Take a hand full of rice and burn it using a lighter. See whether the rice releases a smell of burning plastic.
3. Hot oil test:
Take some rice and drop them into very hot oil. If it is plastic, it will melt and stick to the bottom of the container.
4. The fungus test:
After boiling the rice, put some of it in a bottle and leave it for three days. if mold does not form the rice is fake, mold cannot grow in plastic under in any weather condition.
5. Boiling test:
If the rice contains plastic it will start to form a thick layer at the top of the container when boiling.
The Hans India