askST: Where do we send rice to be tested if we suspect it's fake?

Reader Boey San Fei wrote in to ask about basmati rice: "If we suspect the rice that we have bought is fake, where do we send it for verification?"

Food reporter Kenneth Goh answered.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) is the authority in Singapore which conducts food safety checks. If you suspect the rice is fake, that is synthetic rice as purportedly has been found in countries like China and Vietnam, then the AVA is the organisation to approach to verify that the rice is indeed real grains.

However, we should point out that despite social media rumours about synthetic rice, the AVA has told this newspaper before that no fake rice has reached Singapore shores.

When it comes to verifying the variety and origin of rice, there is no official body in Singapore that oversees this.

Authenticating the variety and origin of rice has long been a contentious issue.

Basmati rice is a long-grain rice that is typically grown in India and Pakistan, and was once the food of the emperors. The slender grain is prized for its nutty flavour and distinctive aroma.

Different types of rice which can be found
 in the market.

India is the world's largest producer and exporter of basmati rice.

According to a report by The Hindu newspaper in February this year, Indian basmati rice grown in some states is set to be recognised with a geographical indication (GI) status, which is issued for agricultural, natural or manufactured products that have a quality and reputation unique to their geographical origins.

GI status would prevent other countries from staking a claim to label or patent their rice as basmati.

India's move comes eight years after India and Pakistan decided to jointly register basmati rice under GI status.

For Thai Hom Mali rice, which is more commonly referred to as Thai fragrant or jasmine rice here, the Thai government issues the Thai Hom Mali Rice mark of certification that guarantees rice quality.

Then there is the issue of counterfeit rice, which hit the headlines in Singapore recently.

Last week, Singapore Customs seized more than 5,000 bags of rice, weighing about 129,000kg, from a shipment imported from India to Singapore. The bags of rice are suspected to be to be counterfeit goods infringing a Singapore-registered trademark.

In this case, the rice is real, but the packaging it comes in is counterfeit, so it is masquerading as produce from a particular brand when it is not.

A Singapore Customs spokesman said: "The case is pending civil proceedings between the trademark proprietor and the importer of the goods."