Plastic rice nightmare in Nigeria


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/12/26/plastic-rice-nightmare-in-nige.html


#2

Somehow everything’s gotten murky and confusing.

Great subtitle for 2016.


#3

I wonder if this is a symptom of the way commodities trading works. No-one doing the buying and selling ever gets near the goods, making the supply chain vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attackers adjacent to the source.

Commodity inspection services exist

http://www.intertek.com/agriculture/inspection/


#4

Simmer gently for 45 minutes. I’ve never seen rice that takes longer than that. It’s really easy to tell plastic rice from cooked rice.


#5

I’m more inclined to wonder if it isn’t actual rice that has been contaminated with something.


#6

Good grief, people can be horrible. Actually, I’m starting to think that horrible is the default and anything else is a miracle.


#7

Ok, but a truly hungry, food insecure, person might be more likely to eat it, especially if they had spent money on it.


#8

At least according to one source, plastic rice is considerably more expensive than real rice. (I believe plastic rice is used for restaurant displays, etc.)

This could be malfeasance (someone stole plastic rice and relabeled it in order to get rid of it quickly), but it seems more likely mislabeling or even someone making a political point (relations between China and Nigeria are a bit up and down).


#9

Or if it’s cut into actual rice.


#10

That’s what I was wondering. There are not many things that are cheaper than rice.


#11

I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening?

Plastics.


#12

What tests? Heat some in a spoon - if it melts, it’s plastic.


#13

Or, you know…somebody wanted to kill a lot of people in a very ugly way by cutting this into real rice shipments being sent to a rival nation.


#14

Seems to be intended for restaurants to make permanent displays of the meals they serve. It costs more than regular rice. But if its stolen it costs nothing. I can’t imagine there is much of a black market for fake rice so maybe the thieves decided to pass it off as the real thing in order to at least get some money from it.


#15

It would primarily ruin a number of pots. It doesn’t soften like rice, so it’s inedibility after cooking is fairly obvious. And we’re not talking about thousands of tons.

Killing a few people in Nigeria isn’t sending a message to anyone.

Also, the fact that they caught it seems a might suspicious. How many tens of thousands of rice bags go through a day, and how many are opened and then looked at closely enough to notice the difference? There’s lots of uncertainty here, no doubt, but I wouldn’t bet on a mass-murder plot.


#16

“I wonder if this is a symptom of the way commodities trading works.”

If this truly is what’s going on, it’s not exactly new. Counterfeit foods of great complexity have been around for hundreds of years, when it was possible to create a facsimile that was cheaper than the real thing and there were no inspections.

I wondered about that. If this really is plastic, there doesn’t seem to be an easy explanation, though. Display rice is made to be convincing facsimile of cooked white rice and doesn’t seem likely to enter the food supply chain, given the cost. (And it seems like tons of the stuff would represent a significant percentage of their total output.) Presumably Chinese food counterfeiters with nefarious intentions could come up with a way of recycling plastic into something that looked good enough to pass as raw rice for less than legitimate manufacturers creating something intended only for display (mostly as an export to Japan, US and Europe). Whether they could do it cheaply enough that it would cost less than real rice seems unlikely, though (as it would have to be less than a tenth the price of display rice).


#17

This sounds a lot more like mass panic than anything else. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s razor blades in Halloween apples all over again.


#18

I saw a documentary within the last couple of years about African economies being slowly destroyed by immigrating merchants selling crap goods from China. I feel malfeasance like this is a natural development.


#19

Rather then contaminated, I’d go with treated. Likely real rice sprayed with a descant designed to speed drying and prevent spoilage during harvest.

In the USA and Canada we spray any of the following Roundup/Glyphosate/Diquat/Glufosinate/Carfentrazone-ethyl/Cyanamide/Cinidon-ethyl/Pyraflufen-ethyl on crops during harvest to make drying uniform and prevent spoilage during drying. While many of these really potent and toxic chemicals break down quite quickly in soil, they often are stable and do not break down when used in this manner. Most of these are undetectable via taste, but I’m guessing that in places with even more lax regulations other substances might be used that impart stronger flavors or a plastic like quality to the rice.

Actual plastic rice is much more expensive to produce then real rice so this is unlikely to be a scam of selling plastic rice as real. It doesn’t weigh, look, or feel the same. Not many things are as cheap as rice, so i can’t imagine it would be targeted for imitation, my bet lies with treated rice.


#20

The weird thing is that plasic rice is technically organic.