With the total population of 7.6 billion people on the planet today, the world seems to be running out of food supplies if what we have been seeing on social media is true. It seems the increasing demand for food has led to the birth of notorious network of business people who mastered the production of cheap, adulterated foodstuffs without any concern about the health of their consumers. Over the years, the adulteration of foodstuffs has progressed from being a simple means of fraud to a highly sophisticated and lucrative business across the globe. This issue has been further compounded by the greed of food dealers to make easy money and the lack of clearly defined international laws to strictly regulate the global market. As a result, we have started seeing different foodstuffs in the market that are made of plastic and other materials.
In December 2016, the BBC News reported that 2.5 tonnes of plastic rice was seized by custom officials in Nigeria and was said to have been smuggled into the country by unscrupulous businessmen to be sold during the festive holidays. Although the origin of the fake rice could not be traced, the report indicated that rice made of plastic pellets was discovered in China in 2015. And now there are videos being circulated on social media allegedly showing fake rice and fake vegetables that have been bought from the South-Asian markets as well which is very worrisome for us. Recently, there was a video on WeChat network in which a Nepali guy was sharing how he accidentally got plastic rice and how it turns into a sticky, bouncy rubber-ball when cooked. The similar story was also reported by NDTV last year when the people of Hydrabad in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh complained that the rice they had bought from the local market was fake.
Likewise, there are many stories coming up on social media from people who have fallen victim to this global scam. Even in Bhutan, there were a couple of videos created for public awareness by those who had realized that they had got plastic flour, plastic cabbages and other fake foodstuffs. Even my wife had once brought home a white cabbage which wouldn’t get cooked and now I feel I might have also tasted the fake cabbage because it was tasteless and hard to chew.
In India, there are reports that almost all fake grocery items are available in the market: plastic eggs, plastic dry fish, plastic chili, etc. Last year, NDTV reported how a woman in Kolkata in the Indian State of West Bengal was sold unusual eggs which would instantly spread out like plastic on the frying pan. Later, it was identified as a plastic egg with the shell made from calcium carbonate, paraffin wax and gypsum powder and the yok and albumen made of sodium alginate, alum, gelatin, sodium chloride, water and food color. This is the main reason why it is said that you can easily hear the splashing sound when you shake fake eggs.
In a small economy like ours, such dangerous developments should be a matter of great national concern. Within no time, it can contaminate our entire market if we do not stay alert and cautious. The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regularatory Authority (BAFRA) has issued a public notification on 29th June 2017 calling on the public to inform the nearest BAFRA office if they ever find suspicious food products in the market. While BAFRA assures us that their officials at the Indo-Bhutan entrance points are aware of the issue and that they would not allow the import of fake food products into the Bhutanese market, the greatest fear is that if the perpetrators mix the fake rice with original rice, there is no way the mixture can be easily detected. We have now reached a point where we cannot trust anything in the world. I think it is now time for us to go back to our farms and grow our own organic foods to stay away from the risks of having to consume harmful fake products.
The writer blogs at amrithdiary.wordpress.com