By Cielito M. Reganit
MANILA, July 3 (PNA) — The Food Development Center (FDC) of the National Food Authority (NFA) on Friday said that laboratory tests showed that the rice sample from Davao City contained a contaminant which it strongly suspected could be dibutyl phtalate, a chemical used as plasticizer that is commonly used in making flexible plastic products.
FDC director Jocelyn Sales, however, noted that her office has still to perform additional tests on the “fake” rice sample to conclusively validate if it is truly dibutyl phtalate that is present in the said sample.
Sales said the fake rice sample from Davao also exhibited starch content, which can also be found in rice, potato, and corn, among others.
The FDC official said that a chemical was used to bind the starch powder, then the plasticizer was added to make it soft.
“The samples are also being tested for heavy metals — cadmium, lead, mercury — to determine toxicity,” Sales said.
In the meantime, the NFA is coordinating with various government agencies to expedite results of the tests.
For his part, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go said that although the chemical found in the alleged fake rice is not poisonous, it is harmful to humans.
“If ingested daily for at least three months, the fake rice may cause harm. This is because the contaminant is a non-food grade substance,” he said.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency, on its website, said there is no available information on the reproductive, developmental and carcinogenic effects of dibutyl phtalate on humans.
However, studies have reported that the chemical has developmental and reproductive effects on animals when ingested.
For now, the NFA has issued some tips on how to know whether the rice the public is buying buying is genuine or fake.
In buying rice, one should take note of the color and quality of the grains.
Rice grains usually differ in sizes, and are not shiny or too white.
If the rice grains are uniform in size, are too white and are shiny, chances are these grains were machine-made.
Buyers are also advised to smell the grains before buying. Rice grains should not smell like plastic.
One should also check whether there is a layer of plastic on top of the cooked rice.
The NFA is encouraging consumers to report to authorities any suspicious rice sold in their areas through their Bantay Bigas Hotline number 09064363133 and NFA official social media accounts. (PNA)