Eating food wrapped in newspapers may cause cancer: FSSAI

Eating food wrapped in newspapers may cause cancer: FSSAI

5:02 AM, 12th July 2017
Consuming food wrapped in newspaper causes negative health implications. (File photo)
Consuming food wrapped in newspaper causes negative health implications. (File photo)

NEW DELHI, INDIA: Like Aadhar card, enjoying street food is unofficially a mandatory need for most Indians. Each state has its own signature street-authentic like momo, jalebi, khaman, vada pav, kachori, bajji, steamed peanuts, cutlet and etc.

Traditional street foods are still a biggest unorganised sector of India. In a typical situation, when one visits a shop and request for a vada pav or any other food of your choice, immediately the shop keeper wraps the food in a printed newspaper.

Immediately when the newspaper wrapped food is served, these three characteristics are common for most people:

  • Newspaper will be used to squeeze out the excess oil,
  • Post eating, newspapers are used as cleaning tissues to wipe hand and mouth,
  • Newspapers may be the first known packaging material to carry food to home or office

Unfortunately, this unhealthy practice is very ubiquitous in India. The inks used for newspaper printing are not safe for consumption and when consumed causes negative health implications.

These inks contain multiple bioactive that causes cancer like naphthylamine and aromatic hydrocarbons. Evidence has indicated newspaper printing workers has been diagnosed with a risk of lung cancer and bladder cancer on repeated exposure to these harmful chemicals - naphthylamine, benzidine, and 4-aminobiphenyl

Further 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.

Understanding the efficacy of this practice, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has released a restriction note in December 2016, to discourage use of newspapers for packing and storage of all forms of street foods.

The released FSSAI advisory note also added a penalty for non-compliance. It also stated newspapers materials contain harmful colours, pigments, chemical contaminants and pathogenic microbes that may increase potential health risk. 

Awareness for use of food grade papers, dried leaves, banana leaves can be encouraged. Regulation should also monitor the type of polythene papers used for packing and storage. Individuals may inform the roadside vendors and small neighbourhood store shopkeepers about the serious health implications for this practice.

To overcome this unhealthy tradition, look the material before you eat!!

Author: Suresh Chander – Food product architect and Science enthusiast

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