Food

The Myth Behind 'Plastic Rice' And What You Need To Know

Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of speculation surrounding 'plastic rice' being sold in Africa. These rumors aren't necessarily new, with the plastic rice phenomenon circling the Internet since 2010.

Here's a basic timeline of "Plastic (or Fake) Rice" and what people have been talking about.

2010

Originating in China, social media posts spread with a rumor claiming rice companies are manufacturing a plastic product and mixing it in with the real thing, allowing them to fill the bags with less product and make money.

2011

Reports emerged that rice was being produced with potatoes and a sticky resin to hold it all together. Chinese restaurant officials warned that eating 3 bowls of 'plastic rice' was basically the same as eating one plastic bag. Videos and images surfaced online as people began making fake stories about what is in this 'fake rice' and how it's being introduced to our everyday lives.

A video posted online tried to fuel the fake rice rumors by showing a ping-pong ball sized piece of plastic. BBC/YouTube

2016

The viral rumors had reached Africa, more specifically Nigeria, by 2016 and people really ate it up. Nigerian customs claimed to have seized 2.5 tons of this 'plastic rice' smuggled into the country by businessmen. The rice was overly sticky and had a chemical smell, which is why Nigerian customs assumed it was plastic.

After being tested in the lab, Nigerian officials were forced to revoke their claims, as it turned out the rice was just that...regular rice. They did find high levels of bacteria in it, but it was most certainly not made of plastic.

Continue reading to see why people still believe 'fake rice' is a thing, and what the experts have to say.

One of the main arguments people use when referring to 'plastic rice' is the unusual bounciness it can have. Videos have been posted online of people molding rice into balls and then bouncing them, then assuming it's because of the plastic.

However, Alexander Waugh, director of the Rice Association, says though the videos may be real, the assumptions are not.

"The natural characteristics of rice are carbohydrates and proteins and you can do something like that with rice," Waugh says.

Alexandre Capron, of France 24's "The Observers", says the gullibility of consumers to believe these plastic rice hoaxes could potentially come from a distrust of foreign imports in general. Capron has worked hard to tear down these myths and stereotypes. He also believes people are intentionally spreading these rumors so others will buy local rice instead of imported.

"The rumor is more popular in countries which are dependent on imported rice like Ivory Coast or Senegal," he says. "The rumor is so huge that governments are compelled to make statements... as to why there is no plastic rice."

Hassan Arouni of the BBC says governments in countries affected most harshly by these 'fake rice' theories should continue to speak out against them.

"I think that's the way to go and demonstrate to the public this [rumor] is not true," he says. "I think it will reassure people that this is fake news and probably somebody being naughty on the internet."

Do you believe these 'plastic rice' and 'fake rice' rumors are true?