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Fraud fears as rice containing 'pregnancy bacteria' sold online as fertility booster

White rice claimed to contain "pregnancy bacteria" and a hand-drawn picture purchased from the website Mercari are pictured in this photo taken April 26, 2017. The listing claimed that the bag contained 150 grams of rice, but actually contained less than half that amount. (Mainichi)

"Pregnancy rice" advertised as containing "pregnancy bacteria" is being sold online as an expensive fertility booster, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

    The "pregnancy bacteria" contained in the rice is advertised as "being transmitted to things touched by women during pregnancy or just after giving birth, and those who take over the things have an easier time getting pregnant." Aside from the white rice, other products like supplements, hand-drawn pictures and accessories appear on the online flea market website and smartphone application "Mercari."

    However, impregnation by "pregnancy bacteria" has no medical basis, and experts are enraged, stating that the sales are "acts of fraud that disrespect women suffering from infertility." The Japan Society for Reproductive Medicine denied the existence of the bacteria, stating that "there is no prior research and no literature on the bacteria exists."

    Many sellers of the rice on Mercari include images of maternal and child health handbooks (municipal documents for recording births and health checkups) and positive pregnancy tests to boost believability among buyers, some even featuring appeals such as "I have six children, so the bacteria is strong!" or "Eight of my friends got pregnant after receiving the rice."

    As for how to use the rice, sellers suggest methods such as putting a small amount into a pouch and carrying it around like a charm or cooking it and making it into a rice ball and eating it. However, the quality and hygienic conditions of the rice are not guaranteed, and the rice is sold without any safety assurance. The rice goes for around 500 yen per 150 grams on the market, and according to sources, there have been several hundred sales of the rice via Mercari since 2013.

    In March and April of this year, there were three listings for the pregnancy rice being sold at the high price of 1,500 yen per 150 grams. The seller claimed she had visited a shrine famous for fertility prayers in Fukuoka Prefecture with her husband and had 30 kilograms of rice blessed there. The seller took down the listings after being bombarded with questions of authenticity by users such as "How did you carry 30 kilograms of rice?" and "Can you prove this with a receipt?"

    A Kanto region woman in her 20s who has sold pregnancy rice for 500 yen per 150 grams on several occasions admitted to the Mainichi that she has always been single and has never been pregnant. Still, on her page she claims, "Thanks to the rice, I was also blessed with a child." She explained, "I heard from a friend that it was 'an easy and cheap way to make money and I didn't need to get pregnant (to sell it),' so I copied the method. It's just a superstition that if you buy it, you can positively take up trying to get pregnant."

    But in some cases, the effects are anything but positive. A Tokyo area woman in her 30s who once bought the rice explained angrily, "I endured infertility treatment for four years until my body and my heart couldn't take it any longer. I was at the point where I would try anything, so I got the rice. I bought 150 grams, but only one-third of that was delivered." A month later, she received a catalogue advertising fertility supplements. Thinking it suspicious, the woman contacted the vendor, who reportedly replied, "We do not reveal the details of how we create our sales list."

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