Fake and foul

  • 7 July 2015, Tuesday

Source: Daily Tribune
6 Jul 2015

How in the world did fake rice find its way into the country?

When the Davao City branch of the National Food Authority (NFA) reported to its head office of the alleged sale of fake rice in the city, an outcry naturally resulted. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, of course, threatened to make the rice smugglers eat their fake product if they got caught. I suspect that is the way most people feel about these criminals.

The fake rice, according to Davao City resident Carmencita Grinio, who bought the rice, “had the appearance of styropor, a synthetic packaging material,” says a report. When the NFA investigated, the store and supplier, of course, denied selling such a thing.

Rice remains the staple food of majority of Filipinos. This means, a Southeast Asian Regional Center (SEARCA) for Graduate Study and Research study says, that majority of the population are poor since rice consumption decreases as incomes increase.
An article on Rappler last September 2012 cites findings in the SEARCA study commissioned by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PRRI).

It said, in part: “In the past two decades — except in 2008-2009, due to the global rice crisis in the first part of ’08 — demand for rice in the country has been steadily going up.

“The SEARCA study said this was in contrast with our Asian neighbors such as China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and South Korea, which all showed declines in rice demand since the 1970s. Factors in the decline, the PRRI-commissioned study noted, include rising economies and incomes, which lead to a diversified diet. They exhibit the trend that as incomes rise, people would consume less rice & corn in favor of other foods, such as produce, meat, fish, and baked goods.”

In other words, poor people who already rely mainly on rice for their nutrition are further victimized by the greed of ruthless individuals making money out of fake food. Officials say this product, which is allegedly made from “potatoes, sweet potatoes, plastic, and materials found in pipes and cables,” looks similar to farm-grown rice and is cheaper to produce. It has already been seen in other countries in Southeast Asia. It is also said that, when cooked, looks like styrofoam and does not spoil even after a week. People who eat rice regularly should be able to tell the difference.

Neverthless, government is being urged to conduct a massive information campaign so that consumers will know how to identify this fake product and avoid ingesting it.

Aside from this, government should really clamp down on the smuggling of fake goods into the country. It’s bad enough that we have a proliferation of counterfeit luxury goods around the country, as well as pirated videos and such, but fake food is disturbing and dangerous enough to merit quick action. Shouldn’t it?

There was a time melamine-tainted milk products from China also came to the limelight for their toxic content. This made people more aware of quality checks and the importance of closer inspection of food they buy and eat. Still, we get news now and again of low quality goods being sold in the metro, such as toys made in China that contain toxic materials that kids could ingest if they put the toy in their mouth.

As consumers, we need to be more vigilant of what we buy. After all, this is all we can do for now as our government strives to create and enforce controls on the movement of goods into the country, as well as the quality of such items. There are still plenty of challenges being faced by the Bureau of Customs, for example, but perhaps an awareness of the dangers resulting from negligence or corruption should deter ruthless individuals. Unethical manufacturers from China may also continue to produce their cheaply-made, possibly toxic products in the name of profit while their government rewards them for their contribution to the economy, but we don’t have to buy these products, do we?