May 09, 2016

09/05/2016: Rice Polishing: 150 years of innovation

by Sujit Pande, Rice expert, Buhler

First published in Milling and Grain, March 2016  

Rice is a vital staple food, feeding half of the world’s people and, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, providing as much as 20 percent of the global population’s dietary energy supply.

In 2015, global rice farming produced 743 million tonnes of paddy rice – which yielded 493 million tonnes of white rice. Of this, an estimated 300 million tonnes of rice is polished. Originally, rice was consumed as unrefined, whole grain brown rice. The evolution of polished rice has changed our relationship with this staple food and with it, consumer tastes and demands.

Today there are more than 40 000 different varieties of rice, each with their own characteristics, and each forming an integral part of the culinary traditions of many different regions and cultures. For instance, sushi and biryani from Asia, paella and risotto from Europe, as well as rice pudding - a British classic.

In demand

Until the late 20th century, rice mills around the world, including top-quality millers, did not integrate polishing into the production process. However, owing to the steadily increasing demand for whiter, silkier rice, the polishing process is now considered to be a crucial stage in the milling process.

Although it is widely accepted that brown rice has a much higher nutritional value than white rice, many consumers prefer the taste of the polished white alternative. Furthermore, it is easier to digest, needs no pre-soaking, cooks quicker and uses less water.

It should be noted that the cooking process might cause the rice to burst, making it look coarser, which consumers can find offputting. However, this can be reduced, if the degree of polishing is adapted to suit the particular variety of rice.

Polished rice has benefits for food producers and retailers too. It improves the appearance of the grain, making it more visually appealing at the point of sale, meaning it can command a higher price.

It also removes traces of bran left after the whitening process. This is particularly important, as glycerides in the bran turn rancid when exposed to oxygen. If they are not removed, they reduce the shelf life and eventually result in a product that is unfit for consumption.

However, the demand for high-gloss, transparent-looking rice in some parts of the world has been so high that unsafe, unapproved methods have been used to give the desired result. For instance, glazing the rice with non-food-safe additives, such as oil or talcum powder. Fortunately, an increasing number of rice mills are turning to innovative rice polishing technology to deliver new standards, improve quality, enhance food safety and deliver the degree of whiteness and silkiness that consumers demand.

Read the full article in Milling and Grain HERE.

The Global Miller
This blog is maintained by The Global Miller staff and is supported by the magazine GFMT
which is published by Perendale Publishers Limited.

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