MANILA, Philippines – The National Food Authority (NFA) on Friday, June 23, assured the public that there is no fake rice in the country.
NFA Administrator Jason Aquino made the statement in a news briefing organized by the Grains Retailers Confederation of the Philippines (Grecon) to settle the controversy sparked by social media posts alleging the sale of fake rice in local markets.
"There is no fake rice. We appeal to the media to help us disseminate the correct information on the fake rice issue," Aquino said, adding that the NFA prepared to flyers to help educate consumers on the issue.
The NFA chief backed his statement with test results submitted by the Food Development Center (FDC), which checked samples of alleged fake rice in different parts of the country.
FDC director Jocelyn Sales gave a presentation on the tests made, based on microscopic, starch, and sensory analysis. The tests disputed claims that the samples are fake .
"[Lahat ito] nagpapatunay na walang pekeng bigas sa Pilipinas. Doon sa mga hindi maka-get over kung tunay o pekeng bigas, give sample ng bigas sa NFA (All these prove that there is no fake rice in the Philippines. To those who could ot get over whether this is real or fake rice, give samples to the NFA)," Sales said.
Those who claim to have encountered fake rice alleged that their purchase had plastic additives based on the texture of the cooked rice.
Sales said trained specialists at the FDC taste-tested the cooked rice samples and found them to have no chemical or off-odor and taste to suggest artificial additives.
She also said that those who claimed to have stomach problems after ingesting alleged fake rice should check other items they took while eating the rice, since the stomach ache might have been caused by contaminated water or other food taken during the meal.
Stop, penalize fake news
James Magbanua, Grecon national president, appealed to the public not to believe "fake news" about fake rice allegedly being sold in markets.
"From Region 1 to ARMM, wala ho ito (There is no fake rice from Region 1 to the ARMM)....There's no such thing as fake rice. Only fake news. Grecon is alarmed by the wildfire-like spread of news and social media posts on fake rice in the Philippines," he said.
"There is no actual fake rice discovered until now from 2015. Hence we are offended by the insinuations that members of the Grecon and other retailers are deliberately putting additives or sell fake rice to the public," Magbanua added.
He noted that the same fake rice controversy raged in 2015, which was the subject of a Senate investigation and a government probe. The allegation also prompted regular NFA inspections in markets nationwide.
Back then, it was proven that there was no fake rice being sold in the country. (READ: 'Fake' rice just contaminated rice)
Magbanua said social media posts, including a video that had gone viral on alleged fake rice, and the "irresponsible" netizens who shared them had fueled a new modus operandi targeting rice retailers.
He said he received reports from Grecon members that some customers had claimed that the latter sold them fake rice, and tried to extort money from them.
Magbanua said selling fake rice is a "no-win situation" for retailers. "There is no imaginable benefit from selling fake rice. There is no incentive in selling fake rice," he said.
Responding to questions, Magbanua said that some retailers reported reduced rice sales in areas in Metro Manila and Cavite since the fake rice claims were revived.
He added that Grecon supports the proposal to penalize sources of fake news, as well as those who share them. Magbanua also proposed the creation of a Rice Watch Committee composed of representatives from concerned government offices, stakeholders, and lawyers to deal with issues on "fake rice."
Discerning vs 'fake' rice
The NFA had earlier issued public advisories on the fake rice issue. It told the public that real rice, when cooked, has "no strange smell" and "there is no foam-like substance on top of the cooked rice."
Last week, the NFA countered the viral video of alleged fake rice that supposedly proved the rice had chemical additives as it "bounced" off the floor when formed into a ball.