Criminal gang counterfeits Aussie rice brand SunRice

One of Australia's top food brands – SunRice – has fallen victim to counterfeiting perpetrated by a criminal group based in Eastern Europe, which has resulted in knock-offs of its products found in more than a dozen countries worldwide.

The counterfeit rice is thought to have been cultivated in Ukraine and Egypt before being harvested and packaged by a gang based in Bulgaria to mimic SunRice's brands, notably its Sunwhite range, according to a report in The Courier Mail.

The criminal organisation shipped the counterfeits to associates in Romania for export to countries in the EU, as well as the UK, Canada, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. The company became aware of the fraud a couple of years ago, and estimates that hundreds of tonnes of falsified rice products have been inveigled into the supply chain.

Adulteration of rice poses food safety concerns, particularly as heavy metals such as cadmium can exceed recommended levels in rice grown in some regions of the world. Meanwhile, there's no guarantee that counterfeit rice is processed in sanitary conditions.

According to the article, SunRice has been unable to sell its products in the EU as tariffs with the trading bloc are onerous, which suggests that anyone purchasing a Sunwhite product in EU member states may well have purchased a counterfeit.

70-year-old SunRice – the consumer brand and trading name of Ricegrowers Ltd – grows its rice in New South Wales and Queensland and exports around 80 per cent of its sales volumes.

It is one of Australia's biggest food exporters with turnover of around A$1bn (around $750m), with key markets including Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East.

SunRice has enlisted the aid of private investigation firms to identify the culprits, and chalked up one notable success in Saudi Arabia recently after customs there seized 20 shipping containers of counterfeit rice on pallets. It has also filed lawsuits in an attempt to disrupt the fraudulent trade.

Image by ImageParty from Pixabay

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