Customs agents in Nigeria recently intercepted nearly three tons of “plastic rice,” which could have wreaked havoc on the area population, where real rice is a staple food. The incoming shipment of fake rice was packaged in large bags just as the genuine article would be, and the counterfeit product looks and feels just like the real thing. The chief of customs in Nigeria told the BBC he believed the rice was intended to be sold in markets during the upcoming holiday season, and nobody is certain what might have happened if people cooked and ate these plastic grains.
Although it’s tough to believe, the tiny grains of rice made from plastic can actually be cooked. The plastic rice, which looks and feels just like real rice before cooking, becomes sticky when boiled (just as one would expect from cooking up a pot of rice). But, a faint chemical smell and its excessive stickiness might have tipped off unsuspecting locals. Discovering this 2.75-ton shipment of plastic rice may have prevented a huge public health emergency. “Only God knows what would have happened” if people ate the fake rice, said Lagos customs chief Haruna Mamudu.
The shipment included 102 sacks of plastic rice, each weighing 55 lbs, and the Nigerian government is investigating to determine whether some of the counterfeit rice may have already been sold at market. At this time, there is no information related to the origin of the plastic rice, but customs officials note the sacks were branded “Best Tomato Rice.” However, a similar counterfeit product was found in China last year, and this is not the first time the fake rice has been discovered in Nigeria. With rice being the only food item that crosses cultural and ethnic lines across the country, according to the BBC’s Peter Okwoche, intercepting such a massive shipment of potentially deadly fake food is a big win for the people of Nigeria.