Patria-Kaye Aarons | Plastic truths or lies?
If it isn't plastic rice, what is it?
For a week now, there have been widespread fears across Jamaica that plastic rice is being sold throughout the island. The fears began with a video from one woman who was cooking what should have been gungo rice and peas. What was concerning was the fact that regarding the contents of the pot, what should have been rice was stretching. It resembled a heated marshmallow, and it caused eyebrows to be raised.
In explaining away that video, some were suggesting that the spoon she was cooking with (which was plastic) was melting from the heat of the pot at the bottom and that it was that which was stretching - the spoon and not some mystery rice. The woman denies that claim.
We've long heard rumours of all kinds of plastic foods being circulated in Jamaica, but never has there been video proof. And so the stories remained tales of fantasy. Until now. One or two videos of how it could be done occasionally surfaced in the past, but they starred Chinese faces and Asian hands. This was the first time we saw a video in Jamaica. The lady's bright orange Scotch bonnet pepper floating on the top of the pot was confirmation that this video was shot in 'yaad'.
Since that first suspicious video, several others have surfaced. People have started to pay more attention to the popular starch and how it reacts in their pots at home. Crude home experiments have been carried out islandwide on camera, and people are convinced they, too, have bought plastic rice. Never before has rice been so scrutinised as in the past week. At the end of these home experiments, people have come to the conclusion that they have, in fact, been purchasers of plastic rice.
But the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) refutes those claims.
The BSJ has carried out testing on more than 50 samples brought to its attention. And according to them, every test has come back negative for plastic. The BSJ has also been testing samples from supermarket shelves and wholesale warehouses, and coming up with similar results.
It then begs the question, if it isn't plastic, what is it?
Some have posited that perhaps it's sushi rice, which is stickier in texture than the regular rice we are accustomed to cooking. These grains are shorter than the long-grain rice that usually makes it to Jamaican pots.
I heard one researcher posit that the rice wasn't polished, a term used to describe rice that hadn't been rid of the broken pieces and, as such, the cooked end product would be mushy - closer to rice porridge.
Or maybe it is that the people in the video just can't cook, or are overcooking the rice. We in Jamaica have a term for poorly cooked rice: 'potto potto'. Maybe there's just an abundance of potto-potto rice and the poor Chinese are getting blamed for an absence of culinary skills.
Rumours now surface of other fake things, like eggs, cabbage and garlic. In one of the videos, the ball of rice bounced. The thing is, I don't think we've ever tried bouncing rice before, so we really aren't sure if this is normal rice behaviour.
Even if it isn't plastic rice, perhaps it is some other substance that humans shouldn't ingest. BSJ needs to widen the scope of testing. Test for things other than plastic. Foam, play dough, wax. I don't know. We need to rule out the fact that this isn't made from something harmful to our bodies.
In the interim, until the BSJ rules out all signs of harm, send on some Trelawny yam!