Authorities on Alert as ‘Plastic Rice’ Scare Spreads
Bandung/Bekasi. Several Indonesian regions are on alert after lab tests confirmed rice found in the West Java city of Bekasi, on the outskirts of Jakarta, contained plastic compounds.
Lab results from state-controlled inspection firm Superintending Company of Indonesia, or Sucofindo, revealed that two rice samples collected from Mutiara Gading market in Bekasi contained contained benzyl butyl phthalate, 2-ethylhexyl phthalate and diisononyl phthalate, also known as plasticizer.
“The two samples of rice look the same; results of our tests show that both contain plastic compounds,” Adisam Z.N., Sucofindo’s laboratory examinations head, said in Jakarta on Thursday.
“Plasticizers are usually used in the production of cables and plastic pipes. In Europe, these substances have been banned for use in children’s toys, let alone as food substances,” he added.
Long-term consumption of the synthetic rice, dubbed “plastic rice” by local media, can cause abdominal pain and even cancer.
Fears of the so-called synthetic rice have spread across the country after a police raid at Mutiara Gading found evidence of it mixed with real grains of rice.
Bekasi Mayor Rahmat Effendi said raids had been conducted at six other markets in the municipality. Officials have taken several rice samples and sent them to labs for testing.
West Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Mochamad Iriawan said his office had formed a special team to investigate the case, adding there was a report the toxic rice might be produced somewhere on Java’s northern coastal highway, known as Pantura.
“We’ve obtained information that it [is produced] in Pantura. It is a rice granary, so it maybe produced there,” Iriawan said in Bandung on Thursday.
Iriawan vowed to take action against perpetrators. “This harms people, especially the poor people. Rice producers and sellers may not distribute [synthetic rice] even once, otherwise we will take action against them.”
Police, local administrations and local offices of the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) in Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan and Bengkulu, among other places, are conducting inspections of markets, although there has so far been no findings of synthetic rice.
Adisam said synthetic rice had slightly different physical attributes compared to natural grains, such as sharper tips.
However, some rice traders in Jakarta have admitted to no knowing the difference before they were informed by authorities.
“I’ve just heard about this [synthetic rice]… and only know how to tell the difference between them after the explanation just then,” said Husein, 37, a rice shop owner in North Jakarta who said he had been selling rice for 10 years.
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