Video shows the production of fortified rice, not 'plastic' grain

A video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times in social media posts in the Philippines that falsely claim it shows a machine making "plastic rice". But the video in fact shows an advertisement for a machine used to add nutrients to rice. The Philippine National Food Authority told AFP no plastic rice is being sold in the archipelago, where the grain is a staple.

"They say this is plastic rice? We should be aware and discerning when purchasing because our health is on the line here," reads part of the Tagalog-language caption of the video shared on Facebook here on May 13, 2023.

The video -- viewed more than 420,000 times -- shows people loading a machine that spits out what appear to be rice grains. Its text overlay also claims the machine is producing plastic rice.

A frame in the bottom right shows a woman reacting to the clip, saying in Tagalog, "Beware of rice. We cannot tell if rice is real or fake nowadays."

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on June 19, 2023

The video was also shared alongside a similar claim on Facebook and TikTok here and here.

Comments on the posts suggest some users believed the video showed the production of plastic rice.

"Why isn't the government closing it down? Are they getting paid?" asked one user.

Another commented: "Omg!! They're killing us by feeding us plastic rice!"

The video, however, shows an advertisement for a machine used to add nutrients to rice.

'Fortified rice'

A reverse image search of keyframes on Google led to a YouTube video published by SunPring Extrusion -- a company based in China that manufactures food machinery -- on August 13, 2021 (archived links here and here).

The video is titled, "Artificial rice extruder nutritional rice making machine FRK fortified rice machine".

According to the United Nations' World Food Programme, rice fortification increases the amount of essential vitamins and minerals in food (archived link).

The agency said the process helps "improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and fight micronutrient deficiencies among the poorest".

Fortified rice kernels are made from "unfortified rice flour, a mix of vitamins and minerals, water and steam" using extruder machines (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the false post (left) and the YouTube video (right):

Screenshot comparison between the video in one of the false posts (left) and the YouTube clip

A spokesperson for SunPring Extrusion told AFP on June 20 the claim accompanying its video on social media is false.

They said the video shows a "twin screw food extruder" and the machine is shown making fortified rice -- not plastic rice -- using broken rice flour as the raw ingredient.

Details about the machine are available on SunPring Extrusion's website (archived link).

Plastic rice concerns

The National Food Authority (NFA) -- the Philippine agency responsible for food security -- told AFP plastic rice is not being sold in the country (archived link).

"The issue is only used by people on social media to gain views and whatnot," a representative from the agency's public affairs office said on June 14.

The NFA previously debunked claims there was plastic rice in the country in 2015, after conducting a series of tests on rice samples in response to allegations of "fake rice" being sold on the southern island of Mindanao (archived links here and here).

Rosaly Manaois, a senior science research specialist at the Philippine Rice Research Institute, told AFP that supposed reports about plastic rice had not been verified.

"There have been reports about the proliferation of 'plastic rice' in different countries, purportedly coming from China, however, none of these have been confirmed," Manaois said on June 19.

July 6, 2023 This article has been updated to use a better translation of a comment from SunPring Extrusion, that their machine uses broken rice as the raw ingredient.

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