Nigeria’s border officials have confirmed the seizure of rice weighing around 2.5 tonnes, was made from plastic and intended for distribution to people during the Christmas festivities.
According to officials, the fake and poisonous rice was smuggled into the country by unscrupulous businessmen. However, officials failed to confirm whether any arrests have been made. The border officials also failed to disclose the country that the seemly deadly rice was imported from.
They did, however, confirm the fake rice was intended for sale in markets during the Christmas festive season. Senior border official, chief Haruna Mamudu, told reporters that the rice was very sticky after it was boiled and that “only God knows what would have happened” if people ate it.
A total of 102 sacks of the rice, each containing 25kg (55lb), were seized by the border officials. Officials have since removed most of the rice safely from harm’s way. A sample of the rice was sent to the laboratory for further testing. Some of the rice is said to be already available in markets across the country.
Investigators said they are searching local markets to confiscate the fake rice. According to investigators, there is strong indication that people may have already consumed the deadly fake grain.
Photos of the rice in packaged bags were widely shared on social media. On Facebook, people urged their friends and followers to spread the news of the fake rice. The rice has been branded as “Best Tomato Rice” with the label also stating that it was produced in the United States.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. Like many African countries, rice is the most popular staple food. Rice is the only foodstuff that crosses cultural and ethnic lines across Nigeria and many other African countries.
The BBC’s Nigerian correspondent Peter Okwoche reports that whoever made the fake rice did an exceptionally good job. The rice looks just like normal rice by observation.
“On first impression it would have fooled me. When I ran the grains through my fingers nothing felt out of the ordinary. But when I smelt a handful of the rice there was a faint chemical odor. Customs officials say when they cooked up the rice it was too sticky – and it was then abundantly clear this was no ordinary batch,” according to Mr Okwoche.
Fake foods are increasingly becoming a global problem. Recently, numerous videos appeared on YouTube and other social media platforms showing rice being made from plastic in a Chinese factory. Below is one of such videos.
In April 2016, we reported that the European Police Agency (Europol) and the International Police Agency (Interpol) seized a record fake hazardous food and drink in 57 countries in a special operation.
During the operation, more than 10,000 tonnes and one million litres of hazardous fake food and drink were seized.
The operation was to identify and disrupt the organized crime networks behind the trafficking in fake foods, enhancing cooperation between the involved law enforcement and regulatory authorities.
In the United Kingdom, officials also uncovered enough fake alcohol to fill 12,000 baths, including 10,000 litres of adulterated liquor. Italian officers found 85 tonnes of olives painted with copper sulphate to enhance their green color. In Belgium, police seized large quantities of imported monkey meat.
Other notable fake products discovered include:
Nearly nine tonnes of sugar contaminated with fertilizer, seized in Khartoum, Sudan.
70kg of chicken intestines preserved in formaldehyde, which is prohibited as a food additive, were found in Indonesia.
Police in Greece discovered three illicit factories producing counterfeit alcohol.
French officers destroyed 11kg of locusts and 20kg of caterpillars seized at airports.
450kg of honey tested in Australia was found to have been blended or adulterated.
Bolivian police found a warehouse with thousands of cans of sardines and fake labels of a famous Peruvian brand ready to be stuck on.
Hungarian officials discovered more than two tonnes of duck meat – not liver – destined to be sold as the delicacy foie gras.
Police in Thailand uncovered an illicit network importing illegal meat from India. Police destroyed more than 30 tonnes unfit for human consumption that was destined for supermarkets.
South Korean police arrested a man suspected of smuggling diet supplements that were being sold online as a natural product but contained harmful ingredients.
In Hungary, Italy, Lithuania and Romania, customs and police authorities discovered counterfeit chocolates, sweets and non-alcoholic sparkling wine aimed at children and destined for export to West Africa.
Officials in Togo destroyed 24 tonnes of imported tilapia that was found to be unfit for human consumption.
In Zambia, police discovered 1,300 bottles of fake whisky in original packaging that had previously been stolen from a warehouse. Police also seized more than 3,200 expired cartons of diet powder drinks.
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