Tuesday, June 8, 2010


In a country like India where food grains like rice, wheat, legumes and others are sold in sacks or vended loose with no information available to the consumer regarding the variety or any other details, the reported practice in Taiwan making mandatory labeling of rice is interesting. The Basmati rice in India is now being branded and consumers have clear options to choose the ones most acceptable to them from amongst the established brands. While buying wheat is relatively easy as most varieties are suitable for making the traditional rotis and similar products, it is the number of varieties of rice that confronts the consumer making it difficult to make an informed choice. While some like pasty rice others prefer rice with a cooking quality that will ensure distinct grainy texture. The desire for buying "old" rice is driven by the increased water absorption properties acquired by the grain and prevent pastiness in the cooked rice caused by prolonged aging of at least 6 months. There fore Indian food authorities should consider introducing compulsory packing and labeling of at least rice grains providing the consumer with information like water absorption, variety, degree of milling and region where it is produced.

"Rice suppliers that fail to provide accurate labeling on the varieties used in their packaged rice must recall their products and improve their packaging within two weeks or face new punishments, the Agriculture and Food Agency said yesterday. The agency made the statement after the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) reported earlier in the day that only two out of 20 bags of rice sampled in a recent random inspection were found to be labeled correctly. The CPC said it recently inspected 39 types of rice sold at supermarkets, traditional stalls and retail chains all over the country for quality control testing and to check labeling. Of the 39 products, 20 underwent further laboratory testing by the Food Industry Research and Development Institute to determine rice varieties".

Probably making mandatory labeling is fraught with lot of logistical difficulties as rice production originates mostly from small cultivators who might not have adequate knowledge about the characteristics of the variety grown by them. But if such a policy is adopted to day,hopefully it may be possible to achieve the objective of compulsory labeling in about 5 years' time.

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