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When you buy imported rice in the store, there are often rows of tiny holes punched into the plastic bags. What is that for? Doesn't it contribute to spoiling and spreading of bugs?

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2 Answers 2

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The holes let the bags breathe, so they can be compressed without popping, and packed more densely. Spoiling and spreading bugs aren't generally huge issues. Rice doesn't really spoil or go stale or anything. (I suppose it can go rancid, especially brown rice, but it takes a long time, and keeping it airtight doesn't prevent it anyway.) The holes are likely small enough to keep bugs from getting in easily, and determined bugs will eat through airtight bags anyway.

Not all rice is packed this way. Sometimes you'll see it in fabric/burlap bags that have holes naturally, especially for bigger bags. It's also common to see paper bags kind of like flour which don't have a perfect seal but don't have holes poked in them either. And for smaller quantities in American grocery stores, I've seen a lot in airtight plastic bags without much extra space.

Rice isn't the only thing that gets this treatment. Another common example is frozen vegetables. Despite the fact that it does actually allow faster drying out (freezer burn), it's apparently worth it to keep the bags from popping under their weight.

So, for some things airtight bags are desirable. For example, they keep chips from being stale and resist compression that'd crush the chips, which is well worth the downside of looser packing and possible popping. But for rice, those upsides don't really exist.

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  • airtight bags are at least bug-evident though.... Mar 29, 2017 at 8:47
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    I’ve also gotten rice In heavier duty plastic bags that have been vacuum sealed. I know I’ve gotten aborio rice this way (with the bag inside of a box), but I think I’ve gotten japanese rice like this once, too. The package is as hard as a brick until you cut it open to let air in.
    – Joe
    Feb 27, 2023 at 2:35
  • The above also applies to many ground and whole spices used in curries.
    – Greybeard
    Feb 27, 2023 at 18:12
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The bags are less likely to burst when the air can move in and out of them. Last thing you want is a bunch of bags to pop during shipping.

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  • That doesn't prevent them from making bags of everything else airtight... like chips, cereal... etc.
    – Catija
    Jul 13, 2016 at 16:00
  • True, but this is about rice, which doesn't require an air tight container for freshness. Jul 13, 2016 at 16:03
  • Still, just because you don't need (which the OP seems to not agree with) air tight container for freshness doesn't mean that having one will necessarily hurt the rice, either.
    – Catija
    Jul 13, 2016 at 16:05
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    Rice is much harder to damage through crushing than chips or cereal. The inflated bag protects these from being crushed, but is not necessary for rice. Reducing the amount of air maximizes the amount of rice that can be packed in a carton.
    – Crispy
    Jul 13, 2016 at 16:12
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    The holes in the plastic are small enough to prevent most insects from entering. Large bags of rice (e.g. > 5kg) are seldom made of sheet plastic. They use burlap or synthetic fabric bags, which have even more holes.
    – Crispy
    Jul 13, 2016 at 16:17

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