More than a month after a 25-gram sample of alleged “fake rice” was reported in Davao City, a series of tests conducted by various government agencies proved that the contamination of said sample with dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a chemical compound used in making flexible plastics, was an isolated case and is therefore no cause for alarm among rice consumers.
National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Renan B. Dalisay issued this assurance as the agency received a summary of the results of tests conducted by the agency’s Food Development Center (FDC), Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), and the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) of the Department of Health (DOH).
PhilRice conducted a DNA analysis on the rice sample and found that it was positive for rice DNA. The IRRI said the sample was “more similar to rice standard” than to sweet potato or corn starch. The RITM said the alleged cooked fake rice sample is “morphologically different” or different in form and structure from the cooked NFA rice sample because further investigation showed that the rice sample underwent retrogradation process that resulted from a series of freezing, thawing, and heating that rice sample went through.
Meanwhile, the NFA-FDC is currently undertaking quantitative analysis on the DBP content of the sole 25grams sample that tested positive with DBP.
“What is clear from the series of tests conducted by various agencies is that there is no existence of “fake rice” in our country,” Dalisay said.
“What we have is an isolated case of chemically contaminated sample which may have been the result of mishandling or pure neglect to safeguard the rice from contaminants,” he added.
From the time the NFA was alerted on the alleged fake rice on June 30, the agency’s monitoring teams patrolled the markets on a daily basis nationwide to ensure that only genuine rice is being sold to the public, Dalisay said. In a span of five weeks, the NFA responded to over a hundred reports and complaints about suspected fake rice from concerned citizens across the country, but none of the samples tested proved positive of any contamination, he explained.
Secretary Francis Pangilinan, presidential adviser on food security, said the government, through its various agencies involved in food technology and nutrition, had exhausted all means to analyze the samples submitted to NFA to ensure that the nation’s basic food is safe and free from any contamination.
“The rice sample from Davao which tested positive for dibutyl phthalate (DBP) remains to be the only positive case of chemical contamination. This is just a clear case then of food mishandling. As we close this issue, we remind the public to be very cautious in their own food handling practices as the government will continue to ensure that food, especially rice, will be available, affordable, accessible and safe for the public.,” Sec. Pangilinan said.
Even as exhaustive tests have not yielded any cause for alarm, the NFA remains vigilant and will never waver in its regular market monitoring activities, Dalisay said.
Dalisay himself had been making surprise visits to the various provinces across the country to personally assess the rice situation and gather feedback from consumers as well as conduct dialogues with the agency’s stakeholders and employees.
He said the NFA has enough rice stocks for the lean months, July to September, and is ready to quickly respond to any emergency need for rice during this traditionally calamity prone months. He said NFA rice is continuously available nationwide at P32/kilogram for the well-milled variety and P27/kg for the regular-milled variety.