AUTHORITIES are yet to ascertain if the reported “fake” rice that was recently seized in Davao del Sur is really fake or is just contaminated.
At a hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food on Monday, officials said traces of chemicals found in the allegedly fake rice are not harmful to health.
Assistant Director Alberto Cariso Jr. of the Food Development Center of the National Food Authority (NFA) said the rice samples they tested contained a chemical called dibutyl phthalate (DBP).
According to Cariso, the presence of DBP in the rice samples they tested could not be attributed to handling because the chemical was found within the rice.
He was responding to a question posed by Sen. Cynthia Villar about the possibility that the rice could have been contaminated during the handling process.
The NFA official said the possibility that the rice was contaminated during handling was unlikely because initial result of the test showed that the chemical is in the rice itself and there is reason to be worried about it.
Health Undersecretary Kenneth Hartigan-Go, meanwhile, said that aside from the DBP, the rice samples also contained three other chemicals that were not supposed to be there.
He added that based on a separate test, the rice samples also contained polyvinyl alcohol, butyl levulinate and Cedrol (sesquiterpene alcohol) that are commonly used as coating agents and flavoring.
“We don’t believe that these chemicals should be there, but they are not harmful,” Go said, but noted that they are still conducting further tests.
Secretary Francis Pangilinan, presidential adviser on food security and agricultural modernization, however said the public should not consume the rice as it is clear that it is tainted.
“The position we have taken is that there are contaminants, we recommend that we should not ingest, consume rice that has these contaminants,” Pangilinan told the Senate panel.
“We are still testing and as of this time we cannot categorically say that it is fake rice, what we can categorically say is that there [are]contaminants,” he said.
Pangilinan gave assurances that there is no proliferation of fake rice in the country.
He said the case in Davao is isolated.
According to him, out of the 60 complaints about the supposed proliferation of questionable rice only one turned out to be positive of contaminants, the one in Davao.
Pangilinan sai they have been conducting daily inspections for more than two weeks and so far the only the Davao case turned out positive.
The so-called fake rice was discovered by Carmencita Griño after she noticed that the rice given to her by her father last June 24 looke strange.
Grino, who also attended Senate inquiry, said that the cooked rice looked like styrofoam.
Villar, meanwhile, told the NFA to act immediately and find the source of the questionable rice in order to prevent its spread.
The senator said the rice could also have been smuggled into the country.
Rice smuggling remains rampant with an average of 600,000 metric tons annually entering Philippine ports.
But there is also possibility that the rice was manufactured locally and the Department of Science and Technology is already conducting research to determine if it can be manufactured in the country.
Villar earlier said existence of fake rice was reported in neighboring countries China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.