The Jakarta Post
The government announced on Tuesday that a round of official laboratory tests found no plastic substances in controversial rice samples from Bekasi, West Java.
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the results with National Police Gen. Badrodin Haiti, Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel and Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) head Roy Sparringa before the government made the public announcement.
Unlike the results from tests done recently by state-owned PT Sucofindo, which confirmed that the rice contained polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the tests conducted by the laboratories of the police, the BPOM, the Trade Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry showed negative results for plastic substances, Badrodin announced after the meeting.
'The results found no plastic substances,' Badrodin said.
According to Badrodin, other tests conducted by the BPOM and police laboratories on samples of the same rice tested by Sucofindo also showed negative results.
'Therefore, I urge people not to worry. Should there be any suspicion [of similar cases of synthetic rice], please report it to the local police or authorities,' he added.
Artificial rice was believed to have been circulating in traditional markets following reports on a porridge seller named Dewi Septiani in Mustika Jaya, Bekasi, involving pictures of alleged fake rice uploaded to social media.
Last week, Jokowi urged people to wait for the official results of tests on the alleged counterfeit rice, which was believed to have been imported from China.
Jokowi also questioned the motive behind the alleged artificial rice, saying it did not make sense if it was intended to seek profit, since the cost to produce such counterfeit rice was reportedly higher than natural rice.
Sucofindo previously confirmed that the rice included PVC usually found in pipes, as well as plasticizer chemical substances usually found in hydraulic tools and electric capacitors that could cause kidney, liver and lung problems and cancer if consumed.
Badrodin added that the different results could be caused by differing interpretation of the lab result, saying that Sucofindo performed a qualitative analysis without making any confirmation using a reference substance for the plastic material contained in the rice samples.
Another possibility, Badrodin said, was that the equipment used in Sucofindo's tests was contaminated.
Roy confirmed that the BPOM's tests on its own samples, as well as samples obtained from Sucofindo, showed negative results for plastic substances.
According to Roy, his office has also communicated with the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) under the World Health Organization (WHO), which said that no similar cases had ever occurred.
'Therefore, we want the public to be calm,' he said. 'We, the BPOM, have instructed local offices nationwide to cooperate with other local authorities, like the local industry and trade agencies, in addressing the matter. We are ready to conduct tests [should there be further concerns].'
According to Rachmat, the Chinese Trade Ministry has said that 'such artificial rice was never produced in China', while Malaysia's Trade Ministry said that a similar rumor also occurred in Malaysia but no fake rice was found.
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