BENGALURU: Foods contaminated by newspaper ink raise serious health concerns since printing ink, besides containing chemical contaminants, may have pathogenic microorganisms. Kerala Food Safety Commissioner prohibited the use of newspapers for packing food last week. Karnataka is yet to wake up though.
This comes seven months after the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) issued a circular to food safety commissioners of all states and union territories to initiate a campaign for creating awareness amongst all stakeholders to discourage the use of newspapers for packing, serving and storing of food items.
Dr Shivappa, Joint Director, Food Safety, said, “We had issued a circular to all designated officers to create awareness about this but are unable to find the circular. It hasn’t been uploaded on our website either.”
Kerala Food Safety Commissioner in his notification dated July 11 pointed out that wrapping food in printed paper would cause chemical and microbiological contamination of food. “This practice is equal to slow poisoning,” the order observes. The FSSAI in December last year had advised to ban newspaper packaging that can lead to cancer.
The order was issued as per Section 30(2)(a) of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which enables the commissioner to prohibit in the interest of public health, the manufacture, storage, distribution or sale of any article of food, either in the whole of the state or any area, not exceeding one year.
Shivappa said that other alternatives available are ceramic plates, areca, steel plates, banana leaves and thick polythene paper. “Ceramic plates are not cost effective and steel plates need to be washed. Banana leaf is easily available and cost effective too. Plastic is banned so it cannot be used. Another alternative is recovering additional cost from customers,” he said.
Dr Harshvardan B, Deputy Commissioner (Squad), Food Safety, said that though designated officers in districts had been told to disallow wrapping of bajji and bonda in newspapers during monthly meetings no notification had been issued yet.
Unless a notification is issued, it is not legally binding, it will merely remain a circular, said K Srinivasa Gowda, Joint Commissioner, Food Safety. Karnataka Food Safety Commissioner Subodh Yadav said that a similar notification will be issued soon.
What FSSAI says
“Indians are being slowly poisoned due to newspapers being widely used as food packaging material by small hotels, vendors and also in homes in lieu of absorbent paper. The ink contains multiple bioactive materials. Printing ink may also contain harmful colours, pigments, binders, additives, and preservatives. They may be contaminated with metallic contaminants, mineral oils and harmful chemicals like phthalates which can cause digestive problems and also lead to severe toxicity. Older people, teenagers, children and people with compromised vital organs and immune systems are at a greater risk of acquiring cancer-related health complications, if they are exposed to food packed in such material. Newspapers should not be used to wrap, cover and serve food or to absorb excess oil from fried food.”