February 24th, 2017
The Pune Cantonment Board recently issued a public notice advising people to avoid eating food (especially fried) packed in newspapers from roadside vendors. Consuming food wrapped in newspapers and packing material can pose grievous health concerns, therefore it is essential you say NO to the fried items wrapped in newspapers.
Last year, the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) put a ban on the use of newspapers for wrapping, packing, serving and storing of food items. To this effect, it directed commissioners of food safety of all States and Union territories to take necessary steps to ensure the same.
However, there are about 10 million street vendors in India, most of whom belong to the unorganised sector. Regulating such a massive number of vendors is a challenging task; therefore it is vital that we regulate our individual food habits.
We are slowly being poisoned due to consumption of old newspaper ink
Printing ink contains harmful chemicals – dyes, alcohol, pigments, binders, preservatives and additives. When consumed in small quantities, these substances cause minor stomach upset. However, overdose can cause stomach poisoning and also lead to cancer-related health complications. Older people and children are at a greater risk as their immune system is weaker.
Besides chemical contaminations, the presence of pathogenic microorganisms in used newspapers also possesses a risk to human life.
FSSAI had already circulated warnings that such unhealthy practice can be injurious to health even if the food is prepared in a hygienic and safe manner. The ink used in newspapers can easily leach into foods wrapped or served in them. It contains multiple bioactive materials with known negative health effects, thus posing a potential risk to human health when consumed. Also, the solvent used to dissolve ink on the paper can be potentially carcinogenic.
“Wrapping food in newspapers is an unhealthy practice, and the consumption of such food is injurious to health, even if the food has been cooked hygienically,” the Food, Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) said in an advisory.
The advisory also revealed that even paper/cardboard boxes made of recycled paper might be polluted with harmful chemicals like phthalate which can cause digestive problems and also lead to severe toxicity.
India lacks stringent food packaging laws
Hotels and restaurants use aluminium foil to wrap their food sent out for delivery, but the same establishments might use newspapers as absorbents. Though there have been improvements, regulation is difficult in all areas. The condition of street vendors is worse as they belong to the organised sector.
In the west, there are regulations forbidding the use of toxic materials for the manufacture of printing ink used by the newspaper industry. Laws regarding the usage of ink on the labels of food packets are even stricter with the condition that no food should come in contact with the ink.
India lacks such laws. If you Google ‘regulations for printing ink used in newspapers in India’, corresponding information will not be generated, even though such regulations hold greater importance in our country. Vendors in the U.S. will never use newspapers to serve their food, but in India, it is a common practice. Due to lack of awareness, many households also use newspapers to absorb oil from fried food.
With the food adulteration industry flourishing in India, our vegetables and fruits are already unhealthy. Being a developing nation, India still has a long way to go when it comes to eradicating the use of toxic substances in our food and medicines. Therefore, regulations on newspaper ink are an even longer way to go.
When the government fails to implement strict laws, it becomes our responsibility as educated citizens of this country to avoid eating such food and also spread awareness about it. Our health is in our hands, and it is essential that we start protecting it.