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Posted On: 22 February 2009 08:55 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:09 pm

The Peninsula study shows inferior quality grains sold in retail market

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Is that authentic basmati rice ethnic biriyani you are eating? It seems not. Consumers of basmati rice in Qatar are apparently taken for a ride. People in Qatar are spending over $9m on fake basmati of the so called basmati –labels. A recent study done by The Peninsula shows that at least 50 percent of the so called basmati rice sold in Qatar retail market is adulterated with inferior quality grains. We had sent samples of 21 brands of Basmati rice to the only molecular food authentication service dedicated to Basmati rice, Ricesearch, in India. These samples under went DNA finger printing tests, the only way to prove the authenticity of the grains. The analysis of the results revealed the shocking ‘food fraud’, in Qatar. It is hardly surprising that food fraud, as the practice is called in the UK, is alarmingly prevalent in the Qatar. It is over or around $9m (figure is based on AC Nielsen Retail Audit) hoax on the consumer. Basmati literally means the fragrant one in Hindi language. It is a delicacy that can be grown in the unique climate and soil conditions at the foothills of the Himalayas. With only one low-yielding labour intensive crop grown each year, basmati production is limited. Basmati rice is so highly prized for its delicate aroma that commands a price premium two or three times the world market price of other rice varieties. Not only does the adulteration practice shortchange consumers when they pay a premium, but actually affects the quality of the food they prepare. No meal, be it a Qatari household, a sub-continental or Far Eastern one, is complete without rice. Given the demand and the consumer’s willingness to pay a price premium for superior grades, Qatar has become a happy hunting ground for food fraudsters. In the survey, 50 percent of the samples failed to meet food standards prevailing in UK, and 40 percent of the samples failed to meet the lower standards prevailing in India and Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan have their own regulation for export of the premium rice. India had passed a bill to protect the uniqueness of some special products, including the premium rice variety on February 16. Even more shocking is the revelation that 19 percent of samples were having no trace of basmati and were ‘labelled-Basmati’, 28 percent of the samples, drawn from the market, had adulteration levels of over 50 percent. Less than nine percent of the samples were pure traditional basmati, and over 30 percent had complex mixes of three or more varieties, which can result in very inconsistent cooking results. DNA-based testing for Food Fraud has precedents of successful convictions in the UK, where, following a national survey by the Foods Standards Agency, two UK based rice importers pleaded guilty to the offence of selling rice as basmati when it contained non-basmati rice. The EU has also implemented DNA testing on imports of Basmati into the European Community since 2003