Fake rice an issue for the Arkansas Rice Federation, state lawmakers

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 240 views 

There are food products sold in grocery stores that claim to have rice in them, but don’t, and the Arkansas Rice Federation wants state and federal government officials to address the issue.

ARF Executive Director Lauren Waldrip Ward testified Tuesday about “fake rice” products before the joint Arkansas Senate and House Committee on Agriculture.

Her presentation highlighted the industry’s concern of a food trend where vegetables are being “riced” and are marketed as a “more healthy” form of rice. Some are marketing the products by identifying them as “riced vegetables” while others are marketing vegetables and other non-rice products as rice. The products are stocked on grocery shelves alongside rice and might confuse customers, she said.

Ward said many of the products including Cauli Rice, Miracle Rice, Better than Rice and Green Giant’s Cauliflower Fried Rice do not include a single grain of rice. There is no FDA standard to identify rice, but Arkansas Rice and USA Rice agree with the existing codex definition, which simply identifies rice as originating from the oryza sativa l plant.

“Our industry has made significant investments developing and building the brand we have for rice. These companies have made it clear that they intend to capitalize on that very brand. Our farmers are proud of the quality associated with the rice they grow and we must continue to preserve that image while also protecting consumers,” Ward said. “Consumers have a right to know honestly and transparently what they are purchasing and these fake rice products are designed to mislead them. We don’t want consumers who want to purchase rice, being tricked into buying something other than rice. Rice is a grain, not a shape.”

Committee members asked about actions being taken at the federal level by FDA and expressed strong interest in supporting those efforts.

“We’ll do whatever is necessary to combat this issue,” said Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning. “I would like to begin working with Arkansas Rice to develop a resolution addressing rice pretenders and protecting consumers’ rights.”

Rice is a critical agricultural commodity in Arkansas. The Natural State produces about half the nation’s rice. Each year Arkansas farmers grow almost 9 billion pounds. It’s a $6 billion industry in the state, and creates about 25,000 jobs directly or indirectly, according to Arkansas Rice Federation. About one in five jobs statewide are tied to agriculture.

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