We all like eating churmuri, bajji, bondas, vadapav, jalebi etc at small hotels or street vendors. Of course, street vendors are our favourites even though we know about their poor hygiene practices. The satisfaction of eating churmuri is more when it is served in paper cone and not in plate. Finger Foods like bajji, bondas need no plate but a piece of newspaper to hold them. In many households, newspapers are used as liners to absorb the excess oil from fried foods. Like this, we see newspapers being extensively used in food sector.
Street foods are still a biggest unorganised sector of India. According to estimates by the Union housing ministry, in 2014, there were 10 million street vendors, mostly in cities. Eating street food has become an unofficial mandatory need for most Indians. Newspapers are widely used by street vendors for serving, packing and wrapping. And, many times newspapers are used in place of tissues too. Unfortunately, these are the unhealthy practices found ubiquitously in India.
WRAPPING FOOD IN NEWSPAPER IS HARMFUL!
When the food comes in contact with the newspaper, the ink from the newspaper gets absorbed into the food and thus it enters our body.
The printing inks are not safe for consumption. The ink contains heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and graphite which have an adverse effect on health. A study found that high amount of lead in the blood can reduce the IQ levels in children and can also affect the growth and development of the child.
Graphite metal does not get eliminated from the body hence keeps accumulating and can be hazardous for the lungs and kidneys.
The newspaper ink also contains harmful colors, pigments, binders, additives and preservatives. It also shows the presence of harmful chemicals like phthalate which can cause digestive problems, breast cancer, obesity and also lead to severe toxicity. Pregnant women exposed to high level of phthalate increases the risk of birth defects and intellectual deficits.
Other than chemical contaminants, the used newspaper shows the presence of pathogenic microorganisms which also poses a potential risk to human health.
Small children, old people and those with a lesser immune system are at greater risk of getting diseases and other health complications from the newspaper ink.
These inks contain multiple bioactives that causes cancer like naphthylamine and aromatic hydrocarbons. Evidence has indicated newspaper printing workers have been diagnosed with a risk of lung cancer and bladder cancer on repeated exposure to these harmful chemicals – naphthylamine, benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl.
India’s food regulator, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued an advisory stating: ‘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 poisoned due to newspapers being widely used as food packaging material by small hotels, vendors and also in homes as absorbent paper.’
Consumption of foods with harmful inks may risk one’s health with harmful effects equivalent to a seldom cigarette smoker. It is so unfortunate that there is less awareness of ink adherence to the food. Hence, it is high time for us to change our habits of using newspaper for serving or packing food items.
Some tips to overcome:
- It is best to use tissue paper or paper towels for packing and for absorbing excess oil from fried food. However, if someone wishes to use paper, it is better to use blank or plain sheets instead of printed papers.
- Encourage the use of food grade papers, tissue paper, dried leaves, banana leaf etc.
- Say no to newspaper to wipe hand and mouth after eating.
- Discourage the street vendor from using newspapers for packing.
- Spread awareness among friends and family.