BEIJING - The illegal use of artificial essence to make scented rice has lead to a fresh round of inspections on the quality of rice produced across the country.
At a grain and oil wholesale market in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, popular scented rice could be produced by adding artificial essence to ordinary rice, China Central Television reported on Monday.
At a workshop near the market, two types of low-cost ordinary rice were poured into a processing machine, following by an injection of artificial essence.
The processed rice was packed as Wuchang Rice, a popular brand of scented rice grown in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province.
An official at the workshop was quoted as saying that authentic Wuchang rice was scarce and highly priced. In contrast, the artificial version was made with cheaper rice from Hubei and Jiangsu provinces, as well as some areas in Heilongjiang.
The artificially scented rice yields a profit of 0.4 yuan ($0.07) per kg, a huge margin in the rice industry.
Few other workshops had adopted the same methods of maximizing profits, despite some sales people having allegedly said the rice was easy to sell. Even in a slow business season, each workshop sold some 20 to 30 tons of the artificially scented rice.
The rice was shipped to Shaanxi, Henan, Shanxi, Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces. Even in Wuchang, where the authentic rice is grown, peasants reportedly add ordinary rice to the pure scented variety before selling it on at a profit.
"A total of 10 million tons of Wuchang scented rice is sold to other parts of the country each year, which greatly exceeds the rice's 800,000 tons in annual output," a dealer told CCTV.
In response, 50 officials from food safety watchdogs in Xi'an swooped on 21 rice workshops on Monday night. The Ministry of Health is now working on drawing up current safety and quality standards for food items, including rice, which it plans to publicize, ministry spokesman Deng Haihua said on Tuesday.
Rice and other grain manufacturers are prohibited from adding artificial essence and spices during the production process, according to the country's Food Safety Law.