Monrovia – A brand of rice on the Liberian market – Butter Brand – perceived by the public to be artificial (made of plastic) and imported from China has been proven to real rice by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
The Ministry conducted the quality test on the rice at its National Standard Laboratory located on the premises of the Ministry of Public Works in the presence of FrontPageAfrica staff. This was after this paper had confronted the ministry with complaints from consumers of the rice.
The Butter Brand rice is imported in the country by Supplying West Africa Trading Inc. located in Sayon Town.
It has very high carbohydrate content (very starchy) and often gets very hard after it becomes cold. It is mostly preferred by low-income families because of its ability to swell.
Over the weekend, two aggrieved consumers of the rice walked into the offices of FrontPageAfrica with sample of the rice complaining, “We’ve come here to report this case. It is a very serious issue. We bought this rice from the Fula store, but my brother this is plastic rice,” he alleged. He continued, “As soon as this rice gets cold, it becomes hard. We mold it in your hands and bounce it; it will bounce back like ‘ganger ball’. We threw it on the wall, it bounce back to us.
“We came here to complain because government cannot allow such rice on the market. This is not good for the citizens. These are some of the foods we eat then we start getting sick, we go to the hospital, they can’t see anything in our system.”
According to him, he went back to the store from which he bought the rice in Larkpazee and fortunately met the supplier of the rice offloading supplies so he immediately called some police officers from Salem
Police Depot in Airfield Community to the store in Larkpazee. However, to his dismay, after some tussle with the supplier, a Lebanese national, the police received a call after which they informed him that they had been asked to back off. This, according to him, prompted him to report the incident to FrontPageAfrica.
Upon being confronted by this paper, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) dispatched a team to SWAT – the supplier on Tuesday morning to collect a sample of the rice for testing.
Three quality tests were conducted in the presence of FrontPageAfrica to ascertain the whether the product was indeed rice or another substance.
The rice passed the combustion, floating in hot oil and sinking in water tests.
With the combustion test, sample of the butter brand rice was placed in a special microwave at a temperature of 550 degrees Celsius. Rice, would burn and turn to ashes during this test while plastic would melt and become compact.
During the oil floating method, sample of the butter brand rice was placed in oil heated at a temperature of 200 degree Celsius with the expectation that it would sink and float on the oil which it did to show it is actual rice. Plastic would have melted on top of the oil without sinking.
The rice is made in China and has a validity period of five years of five years.
Rice is the staple food in Liberia with an annual import of 1.3 metric tons.
Speaking to FrontPageAfrica, MOCI Minister said, “China is the largest producer of white rice or sticky rice, but we don’t eat it in Liberia much because it’s perfect when it’s hot but gets hard when it’s cold.”
In 2016, Nigerian Police impounded a consignment of 102 bags of 50kg of fake rice believed to be plastic rice.
They are suspected to have been smuggled or illegally shipped in from China through Lagos port, a senior customs official in Nigeria’s commercial hub told AFP.
The rice was branded “Best Tomato Rice”.
The poor quality of facilities like warehouses in which the rice and other food products are stored is a major contributing factor to making some food stuffs unwholesome for consumption, a food analyst at the laboratory told FPA.
“Some of these warehouses don’t have good ventilation and even the method through which they transport some of these food stuffs cause the food to drop in quality. For example, rice is not supposed to be transported in an open air truck. Even tarpaulin is not adequate enough to cover the rice. Worst of all, you see some people lying on the rice or water while transporting. This alone can spoil the rice. Their sweat can diffuse into the rice,” the analyst said.