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‘Miniket’ rice causes obesity, diabetes

Published : 15 Oct 2022 10:26 PM

The prevalence of obesity and diabetes is increasing rapidly in Bangladesh. Obesity amongst the children is also increasing at an alarming rate in both rural and urban areas.

However, the obesity and diabetes rate among the urban people is higher than the rural people. A study shows that the overweight and obesity rate among people in Dhaka is higher than the national average.

The diabetes and obesity rates are high among the urban people for various reasons. Experts on public health and others concerned think that consumption of ‘Miniket’ rice, a variety of white rice, which is over-polished in rice-mills, contributes to increase the risk of diabetes and obesity in urban area as ‘Miniket’ rice is widely used in urban areas, particularly in Dhaka. 

All varieties of ‘Miniket’ rice found in the market across the country are actually over-polished coarse varieties of rice. Millers and rice traders are making abnormal profit by selling low-priced rice in the name ‘Miniket’ at high prices while consumers are being cheated.

“The rice known as ‘Miniket’ in the market is not actually any variety of rice. The rice is the result of excessive polishing of coarse rice”, said Syed Saiful Alam Shovan, a rights activist who has recently filed a complaint to the Directorate of National Consumers’ Right Protection in this regard.  Talking to Bangladesh Post on Saturday 

(October 15), Syed Shovan said that after excessive polishing of coarse rice, it is released in the market as ‘Miniket’. The consumers of Miniket are losing in two ways as they pay extra for Miniket rice, but get lesser nutrients. However, the ‘Miniket’ contributed to diabetes and obesity, he added.  

Mr Shovan and some others said that alongside the ‘Miniket’ rice, there is also no Najirshail in Bangladesh. Millers and rice traders are selling different varieties of rice in the name of Miniket and Najirshail. “The thin grain rice which is sold in the name of Miniket is actually Jeerashail and Shampa Katari or some other varieties of coarse rice.

Prof Dr Abdul Alim, a member (food industry and food production) of Bangladesh Safe Food Authority (BSFA) also said that the rice that is known as ‘Miniket’ is being marketed by cutting coarse rice in mills. Millers and traders have been marketing the polished rice in the name of ‘Miniket’ because of the demand of consumers. 

Talking to this reporter, he also said that the polishing of rice as well as the modification process of Miniket gets the rice less nutritious. The excessive polished rice, however, hits the total production of rice. 

A recent study carried out by the BSFA found that excessive polishing in the country’s rice-mills results in loss of nutritional value of rice, which ultimately contributes to diabetes and obesity. 

However, upto 8 per cent polishing of rice doesn’t destroy the nutritional value of rice. If more than this, the total production of rice also decreases along with loss of nutritional value. However, the rice available in Bangladesh market is usually 20 per cent to 30 per cent polished.

According to the study, which is yet to be published, no paddy exists by the name of ‘Miniket’ while there is hardly any cultivation of Najirshail paddy anywhere in Bangladesh these days. The millers and traders collect different varieties of coarse paddies or rice and hugely polish them before marketing as ‘Miniket’ and ‘Najirshail’ varieties. 

The BSFA study found that the amount of polishing in rice is more than 8 per cent. They placed recommendation that rice polishing should not exceed 8 per cent and measures should be taken to prescribe it by law/rule/regulation or policy. The BSFA also recommend that the name of the variety of rice should be written on the sack during bagging the rice at the rice mills. 

“Most of the nutrients get lost while polishing the rice. Only carbohydrate remains. The polishing process of rice is harmful for consumers,” said Dr Nahidul Islam, a faculty membr of the Agro-processing Department at Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University.

According to him, different micronutrients are preserved in different layers of rice. As the millers polish the grain with chemicals, the process eventually takes out the bran and geranium.

However, the coarse rice is widely marketed as ‘Miniket’ after cutting and polishing it to deceive the consumers. The millers cut and polish coarse rice by using modern rice husking machine.

According to a food ministry report, the Indian West Bengal government had distributed kits of ‘Shatabdi’ paddy seeds and fertilisers to flood-affected farmers of the state in 1985. With the word ‘kit’ in mind, farmers started calling the rice ‘Minikit’ or ‘Miniket’.

Just after introduction it in the neighbouring country, the ‘Miniket’ rice came from India to Jashore and later spread to other parts of Bangladesh. 

According to the ministry, Bangladesh produces about 3.84 crore tonnes of rice annually. However, nearly half of the total quantity of rice is sold in the market in the name of ‘Miniket’.

Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) supplies many varieties of paddy seeds, but the BADC has no seed named ‘Miniket’. 

KM Layek Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Auto Major and Husking Mill Owners’ Association and some other millers and rice traders admitted the matter. “Actually, there is no rice called Miniket. Over the last 10 to 12 years, millers and rice traders have been marketing ‘Miniket’ because of the public demand,” he said. 

Against this backdrop, experts on public health and the nutritionists called upon the people to eat red rice instead of white rice, including ‘Miniket’ rice, in the interest of public health.

Food Minister Shadhan Chandra Majumder at a porogramme has recently said that many traders sell rice under the brand ‘Miniket’ even after repeated announcement that there is no such variety of rice in the country. Now, the government is formulating a law to go for legal action against the traders. 

AHM Shafiquzzaaman, director general of the Directorate of National Consumers’ Right Protection or DNCRP, also said that they will soon begin raiding mills after different ministries pushed for the withdrawal of ‘Miniket’ rice from the market.

However, the authorities concerned of the government are now against the sale of ‘Miniket’ rice. Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam recently said no rice can be sold in name of ‘Miniket Rice’ in the country. The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) has recently also issued a circular in this regard.