Rice is the most popular staple food in Nigeria, and at least one criminal enterprise has attempted to cash in on it with an imitation product.
Nigerian customs officials confiscated 2.5 tons of fake rice that was smuggled into the country, reports the BBC. A total of 102 sacks, each containing 25kg, was seized.
According to Haruna Mamudu, the customs chief in Lagos, the bogus rice was intended to be sold in markets during the festive season, and branded under the rather unimaginative name “Best Tomato Rice.”
Customs officials have implored the "economic saboteurs who see yuletide season as a peak period for their nefarious acts to desist” from doing it. Authorities are currently trying to determine how much of the phony product has already been sold.
The origin of the seized bags is as yet unknown. However, rice made from plastic pellets was found in China last year.
BBC reporter Martin Patience says the rice is so realistic that it fooled him. It even feels authentic to the touch, he said. However, he did notice that it has a slight chemical odor.
When customs officials cooked it, they found it to be too sticky to be real rice, so it was sent to a lab to determine its exact content.
In the meantime, authorities are warning the public not to consume it, because "only God knows” what would happen, feared Mamudu.
Fake rice has not previously been a problem in Nigeria, notes the BBC. Rather, the primary counterfeit product in that country is pharmaceutical drugs.
The World Health Organization summed up the problem in a special report, which reads in part:
“The problems of fake drug proliferation in Nigeria have affected the credibility of the Healthcare system and can exert very harmful effects on the consumer resulting to illness; disability and even death and anyone can be a victim. Some of the incidences have resulted in death even among children because most times the consumers do not know the quality of what they are buying or taking. This makes it imperative that there is need to intensify effort in fake drug eradication.”