We Indians love our junk food! Whether it’s chaat, sandwiches, samosas, or vada pav, ask a vendor to “parcel” your food and he will expertly wrap it up in newspaper in the blink of an eye and you’re good to go… or are you? Yes, we always knew that street food is not exactly healthy, but did you know that it could be slowly poisoning you and your family? The FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) has issued a strongly-worded advisory to the food safety commissioners of every state to generate awareness about the dangers of wrapping food in newspaper.
The FSSAI is responsible for food safety regulations and protecting public health across the country and was responsible for the 2015 Maggi noodles ban. After taking on several big brands, the FSSAI has now turned its attention to a seemingly small health issue – the practice of wrapping food in newspaper. However, the reasons that they provide are sure to shock even the most ardent street-food junkie!
Printing ink contains harmful pigments, chemical binders, and various harmful additives which pose risks to human health if ingested. This is precisely why companies cannot use newsprint as packaging material. However, street vendors are not bound by the same rules, which is why newspaper is so commonly used to parcel food.
The Dangers Of Wrapping Food In Newspaper
1. The Health Risks Of Lead In Newspapers
Newspaper ink contains heavy metals like lead and cadmium, which have an adverse effect on health – especially in the case of children. A recent 3-year study measured the lead levels of thousands of children below 12 years across seven metro cities. The study found that over 50 per cent of all these children had lead levels above 10 ug/dl- blood – lead levels over 10ug/dl have been proven to reduce IQ levels during the growth and developmental phase of children. The lead levels in this study also showed a drastic increase from the last test, which was held 12 years earlier – for instance, the previous test showed that just 15.8 percent of children in Bangalore had high levels of lead, but the latest figures show that this number has now jumped to 40 per cent! The FSSAI has warned that several of the chemicals that leach into your food from newspaper are known carcinogens and can increase your risk of cancer.
2. The Health Risks Of Chemicals In Cardboard boxes
Chemicals in newspapers, as well as cardboard boxes made of recycled paper, can contain phthalates – these chemicals have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and obesity as they disrupt endocrine function. If a woman is exposed to high levels of phthalates while she is pregnant, her child has a much higher risk of birth defects and intellectual deficits.
In addition to the chemical contaminants in newspaper used to wrap food, used newspapers were also likely to contain pathogenic microorganisms that can pose potential risk to human health.
Who Is At The Highest Risk From Newspaper-Wrapped Food
An FSSAI advisory on restricting newspaper as packaging material stated that, “Indians are being slowly poisoned due to newspaper being widely used as food packaging material by small hotels, vendors and also in homes in lieu of absorbent paper.” It also warned people that children, seniors, those with compromised organ function, and people with weakened immune systems were at the greatest risk of cancer-related health complications, if they are exposed to food packed in newspaper.
The Health Minister JP Nadda said, “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 doing so.” It is important that we sit up and take notice of this advice and we urge people to create awareness and to request different packaging material when purchasing food from roadside vendors.
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