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Basmati fraud in Britain?
IANS, June 29, 2004
In Britain, the fragrance of basmati rice is increasingly replaced by the fragrance of fraud, according to an investigation by the Food Standards Agency.

Britons consumed 190,000 tonnes of basmati last year, but most of what they consumed was not the real thing, the investigation reveals.

Figures show that nearly half of all basmati sold in Britain is contaminated with inferior long-grain rice.

The result is that thousands of discerning curry-lovers in Britain are ending up with a sticky mess created by cheaper, blander and starchy varieties.

The FSA study of nearly 300 samples of rice sold in sizes from 250 gm to 20 kg at outlets from supermarkets to corner shops found that nearly one in five packets had more than 20 per cent of non-basmati rice. In one in 10 cases, the adulteration reached 60 per cent.

A spokesman for the agency said: "Basmati rice ... is a premium product and therefore attracts higher prices than other long-grain rice. Telling the difference between them is difficult, and there is a profit to be made from mixing in a cheaper variety. The industry code of practice is out of date and there is a need for new standards."

The profits to be made from adulterated basmati rice are handsome. The average retail price for non-basmati long-grain rice is about 70 pence per kilo, compared to basmati, which fetches 1.40 pounds per kilo.

Demand for basmati rice is increasing rapidly, making the basmati fraud all the more lucrative.

The two big global producers, India and Pakistan, last year reportedly exported 270,000 tonnes to the European Union, about 70 percent of which was destined for Britain, the biggest consumer of Basmati outside the Indian subcontinent.

In recent years, sales have increased by 12 percent annually, creating a market in Britain alone worth 50 million pounds.

"But such is the level of alarm at the adulteration problem that retailers from supermarkets to wholesalers supplying Indian restaurants are resorting to space-age means to ensure their basmati is genuine through DNA testing," The Independent reported.

The FSA study was done by comparing samples with DNA from the 16 approved varieties of basmati, grown in five states in northern India and the western Punjab in Pakistan. Besides finding that 46 percent of all basmati is adulterated to some degree, the research found that almost 80 per cent either did not contain the variety advertised on the packet or it made up only a minor component.

Under rules set by Gafta, the Grain and Feed Trade Association, the body that regulates the international rice trade, the lowest grade of basmati can legally contain up to 20 percent of a different variety of long-grain rice.

The FSA says the new DNA technology means the threshold should be lowered to seven percent, forcing importers and wholesalers to improve standards.
MGR Archive 30.6.2004
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