SRINAGAR: The health department has issued a fresh advisory against the use of newspapers for wrapping food items. The department has asked people to desist from this practice that poses several health hazards.
“Foods contaminated by newspaper ink raise serious health concerns. The ink has multiple bio-active materials with known negative health effects. Printing inks may also contain harmful colours, pigments, binders, additives and preservatives. Besides the chemical contaminants, the presence of pathogenic microorganisms in used newspapers also poses a risk to human health,” reads the health advisory issued by the department’s Division of Epidemiology and Public Health.
It says that newspapers and even paper/cardboard boxes made of recycled paper may be affected by metallic contaminants, mineral oils and harmful chemicals like phthalates, which can cause digestive problems and 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,” the advisory says.
Public health experts say that people are being “slowly poisoned” due to newspapers being used as packaging material. Dr Manzoor Kadri, an epidemiologist in the health department, said that newspapers should not be used to wrap, cover or serve food or even to absorb excess oil from fried food.
“There is an urgent need to discourage the use of newspaper as food packaging material. For this, it is necessary to create awareness, especially among unorganised food business operators, and also among consumers. Suitable steps need to be taken to restrict and control the use of newspapers for packing food material,” he said.
Earlier, the Food Safety Wing of the Drug and Food Control Organisation (DFCO) had issued prohibitory orders stating that distribution and sale of food articles in newspapers posed serious health threats, including of cancer.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has already banned the use of newspapers for wrapping food items.
“People are least interested in listening to our advisories. They seem ignorant about the serious threat posed by the common practice,” said Hilal A Mir, Assistant Commissioner, Food Safety, Srinagar.
He said the department needs cooperation from people to end the practice. “We will soon start awareness campaigns related to the issue. People must end this practice to save themselves from the perilous effects of newspapers,” Mir said.
He also asked food business operators to stop the use of newspapers as packaging material. “There are many alternative packaging materials. They must use those options, otherwise we will be forced to take action against them,” he warned.