A letter to the Somaliland Public
Authors: Eng. Abdirashiid Muhumed and Eng. Maxamed M. Jibril
We have been tempted to write about rumors as a powerful political weapon and a means of spreading disinformation “fake news”. Despite a lack of evidence or proof, rumors can still be influential and create a strong sense of conviction and “chaos” that cannot be easily ignored. One recent case is the myth of plastic rice of Chinese origin in Somaliland that circulated like wildfire on social media and was uncritically disseminated by media outlets. Although less dramatic, this “hoax” has demonstrated the power of social media content creators who spread rumors for political gain and increased viewership.
It is hard to believe that there is some kind of plastic rice being marketed instead of natural rice grains. It is highly unlikely that synthetic resin mixed with cornstarch and shaped into millions of grains of rice, and then transported from China to Africa, would produce rice at a lower cost than producing conventional rice in China. Credible sources, including food safety authorities, health organizations, and reputable news outlets, have debunked the myth of plastic rice. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that there is no evidence to suggest that plastic rice is a real phenomenon. Similarly, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted tests on various samples of rice and found no evidence of plastic contamination. Additionally, major news outlets such as BBC News and The Guardian have reported on the myth of plastic rice and have cited expert opinions and scientific evidence to refute it.
The origins of the plastic rice myth can be traced back to China in 2011, where images and videos of rice appearing to be made of plastic were circulating online. This created widespread panic among consumers who began to question the safety of their food. Similar rumors soon spread to other countries, including India, the Philippines, Nigeria, and Gabon, generating a wave of media coverage on the subject.
Despite widespread fear and panic, multiple studies and investigations have found no evidence for the existence of plastic rice. In fact, the rumors appear to be based on urban legends and conspiracy theories rather than factual evidence. Rice is subject to strict safety and quality standards, and it is a complex product that cannot be easily replaced with plastic. Rice is made up of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and other nutrients that are essential for human health. Plastic, on the other hand, is a synthetic material made from petrochemicals that has no nutritional value and cannot be processed by the human body.
Somaliland imports all its rice from mainly Asian countries and its staple food for Somalilanders, and despite the rumors, there is no single evidence from the local citizens or government authorities regarding the plastic rice being consumed or sold in the Somaliland market. The myth of plastic rice is nothing more than a hoax. As always, it is important for the Somaliland government to strengthen the capacity of its food safety institutions to ensure that food is safe and healthy and, more importantly, food-related information is credible and reliable.
*The aim of the article is not to encourage consumption but rather to clarify to the public the misconception the caused by rumors about plastic.
About the Authors
Eng. Abdirashiid Muhumed teaches Environmental Sustainability at Barwaaqo University, an independent follower of World politics. Engineering of Agricultural Science and Entrepreneurship From EARTH University, Costa Rica.
Eng. Maxamed M. Jibril is a dedicated professional with a passion for sustainable food production and social responsibility. Currently pursuing an MSc in International Land and Water Management at Wageningen University & Research. Engineer Jibril has previously worked in the Somaliland sector of agricultural development and food security.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints of Somaliland Chronicle, and its staff.
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