Basmati is the customary name given to certain aromatic rice varieties grown exclusively in north-west India and Pakistan. Its unique properties have earned it the name 'queen of rices.' But there is no legal definition for the description of Basmati rice in the UK.
The Agency's consultation, which is running until June 7 2002, recommends that the term 'Basmati' be used only for 11 Indian and five Pakistani rice varieties, plus any others that are subsequently approved.
To help consumers make informed choices, the consultation document also recommends that the rice's country of origin be also given. If the rice is a produce of more than one country, this should also be listed, the consultation recommends.
In 1999 the Joint Food Safety and Standards Group (JFSSG), the FSA's predecessor body, developed a way of mapping the DNA of certain premium rice varieties. The Agency has further improved the method which would serve to check whether the name 'Basmati' is being used according to the guidance.
The development of a DNA method prompted a discussion about what Basmati rice is, and comments were sought from the public and local authority food enforcement officials. The guidance is based on the views received.