THE Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Food Authority (NFA) must look into the reported proliferation of synthetic rice in the country, Senator Cynthia Villar said Tuesday.

“A nationwide inspection by DA and NFA should be conducted on warehouses and rice shops to identify the illegal peddlers of fake rice and make sure they will be severely penalized under existing laws,” said Villar, chairperson of Senate agriculture and food committee.

“Special attention must be given to small shops in rural areas, where fake rice could be discreetly sold,” she added.

Fake rice, which was also reported in neighboring countries China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, allegedly reached Philippine shores, with a reported discovery in Davao del Sur.

Reports said the synthetic rice is made of potatoes, sweet potatoes and plastic shaped into grains.

Materials found in pipes and cables were also used in the fake rice.

“Obviously, the manufacturer of fake rice is doing this in the name of profit. We heard this is cheaper to produce and looks very much like the farm-grown rice. Our fear is that many of our kababayan will not be able to tell the difference and will be deceived into buying this cheaper type,” Villar said.

Villar said she is hoping that DA will submit an official report on the matter.

She added that the Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Coast Guard must continue guarding the country’s ports for the possible illegal entry of fake rice as this could be mixed with normal rice.

Vilar also stressed that information campaign must be launched to teach the public pointers how to identify fake rice and encourage consumers to report its presence to authorities.

“Many could not recognize this (fake rice) and reports even said that in one week, this is still edible. Let’s make an immediate action regarding this issue because it seems that we eat plastic if you eat such (rice),” the senator said.

Health experts have warned that consuming fake grains could be deadly or could cause serious damage to the digestive system.

Under Senate Bill 2765 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act which Villar authored, smuggling of fake rice would be declared as economic sabotage if the measure is enacted into law. (Sunnex)