The FSSAI has published an advisory dated 6 December 2016 restricting the use of newspapers as packaging material because it is a potential health hazard. There must have been numerous occasions when you have eaten street food like bhel puri or chana jor garam out of a newspaper cone and never realised how it could affect your health. The FSSAI advisory points to the fact that wrapping, packing and serving food in a newspaper is a common practice in India and is not considered harmful. However, the truth is that most Indians are unaware that wrapping food in newspaper is actually harmful to health.
It must not have crossed your mind that hygienically cooked, when served in newspapers, can actually become contaminated. Small vendors and hotels routinely use newspapers to wrap and serve food in. Many households also use newspapers to absorb excess oil in the absence of absorbent paper. These activities can slowly poison the consumer and lead to a number of health related problems. Newspaper ink is generally of a thick consistency. The ink could contain petroleum based mineral oils and solvents like methanol, benzene and toluene. For drying the thick ink heavy metal drying agents like cobalt are used. All these chemicals are considered to be harmful for human health.
The truth is that the thick newspapers ink can leach easily into the foods especially when the food is fried and is hot. The bioactive materials in the ink can have a negative effect on the health. Printing inks could also contain harmful colours, pigments, binders, additives and preservatives. The hot oil from samosas and pakoras aids the leaching of these chemicals form the ink into the food. Besides these chemical contaminants, newspapers could also contain microorganisms which can pose as much risk to human health.
Since newspapers and even cardboard boxes and paper boxes could be made from recycled paper they may contain metallic contaminants, mineral oils and harmful chemicals like phthalates that can cause digestive problems and extreme toxicity. Consumers with weak vital organs or immune systems like old people, children and even teenagers are at a risk of acquiring cancer related problems if they are exposed to foods packed in recycled material.
The FSSAI has therefore issued the advisory wherein they state that newspapers must not be used to wrap, cover and serve food in and neither used to absorb oil from fried foods. The FSSAI also feels that there is an urgent need to discourage such practices and spread awareness among consumers. The unorganised food sector especially needs to be made aware so that they can about discontinue such practices which pose a clear health hazard. The FSSAI feels that suitable steps are needed to prevent the use of newspapers for packing foods as regularly eating food from newspapers leads to more exposure to contaminants and more health risks.