Health ministry to act tough on use of newspapers for food items

Union health minister, Mr J P Nadda has directed the food regulator, FSSAI to issue an advisory stating the harmful effects of usage of newspaper for storing food items


New Delhi: Expressing concern over the practice of wrapping, covering or processing foods with newspaper and printed recycled paper materials in India, Mr J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare had earlier directed The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to issue an advisory restricting the use of newspapers as food packaging material.

“It has been observed that vendors have been using newspapers in packing and serving food, which is harmful. I urge the public to dissuade the vendors from using newspapers in packing and serving food and not to themselves use too. We have also issued an advisory to this effect to the state agencies and dissuade vendors from using newspapers in packing/serving food,” Mr Nadda stated.

“The fact that the newspapers are printed with ink that can be absorbed in the food is well known. The newspaper ink contains many hazardous chemicals which can trigger serious health problems,” said the Health Minister further adding that there is a need to improve awareness among small businesses, particularly unorganized sector, and provide clear guidance. “This should be backed up by systematic monitoring and enforcement by authorities,” Mr Nadda added.

According to the advisory, the Commissioners of Food Safety of all States/Union Territories will initiate systematic campaigns for generating awareness among all the stakeholders to discourage the use of newspapers for packing, serving and storing food items.

The advisory also states that the use of newspapers for wrapping, packing and serving food is a common practice in India. However, this is a food safety hazard. 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. Indians are being slowly poisoneddue tonewspaper being widely used as food packaging material by small hotels, vendors and also in homes in lieu of absorbent paper.

Foods contaminated by newspaper ink raise serious health concerns since the ink contains multiple bioactive materials with known negative health effects. Printing inks may also contain harmful colors, pigments, binders, additives, and preservatives. Besides chemical contaminants, presence of pathogenic microorganisms in used newspapers also poses potential risk to human health.

Explaining the logic behind the drive to contain their usage for food items, the advisory mentioned that newspapers and even paper or cardboard boxes made of recycled paper 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. There is an urgent need to discourage the use of newspaper as food packaging material by creating awareness among businesses, especially unorganized food business operators and consumers on its harmful effects. Suitable steps need to be taken to restrict and control the use of newspapers for packing of food material, stated the advisory.