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Who mixed the rice?

Date Posted: 2003-10-18

Japanese people are know to be very particular about the rice they eat daily, and they claim that they can discern their favorite brand at any time. Due to exceptionally cool summer weather in rice-growing areas in mainland Japan, this year’s rice harvest was bad. That in turn has resulted in prices going up sharply.

In an article published in Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper Oct. 9, the paper said that it had discovered a lot of prime-brand Koshihikari Rice had been tainted with lesser quality rice. The rice the newspaper referred to had been on sale at a local supermarket as a 100% pure Koshihikari. The local JA cooperative subsequently tested the rice and came to the conclusion that the rice was 70% Koshihikari and 30% of other rice.

The president of the Okinawan wholesaler who imports the rice in big bags and then packs it locally strongly denies that his company has anything to do with mixing the rice. “We never mix premium brands with other rice,” Tetsuo Yonashiro, the president of Dai-Ichi Shokuryu Co. said. Officials at Okinawa General Bureau say that they will do their own investigation. “If someone really mixed the rice, a law might have been broken,” an official at the bureau said.

Plant Genmu Center at Ibaragi Prefecture also tested the rice at the request of Okinawa Prefecture officials. They say that the DNA tests they conducted prove that the rice is a mix of Koshihikari and other rice. Yonashiro suspects that someone along the production line got careless. “Usually, the same brand is used when polishing the rice, but maybe someone did not clean the machines and there was some other brand rice left that then got mixed,” Yonashiro speculates.

Finally, government experts who flew down from Hokkaido on Monday, confirmed that the rice was a mix. They also gave the Okinawan wholesaler a clean slate as they concluded that the rice was most like mixed before coming to the island. “We believe that the rice was mixed before it was sent here. The way the system works, licensed collectors collect the rice from farmers and then sell it to wholesalers. When the rice is collected from farmers no DNA tests are made, but we have to believe what farmers say they are growing.

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