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December 8, 2018

Ban to be slapped on packing food in newspapers, polythene bags


December 8, 2018

Islamabad : Though common nowadays, the use of newspapers and polythene bags to pack takeaway food will be outlawed in the country within three years.

However, the Ministry of National Health Services and Regulation will educate the people about the harms of dispensing hot food items in newspapers and synthetic plastic bags and sheets through a nationwide campaign before slapping that restriction.

Street vendors, cafés, restaurants and hotels frequently use the used newspapers and plastic bags to pack, wrap and dispense fried food without knowing the practice is injurious to health.

According to the doctors, the people eating such food are vulnerable to serious health problems, including cancer, due to chemical and microbiological contamination.

“The ink used to print newspapers contains extremely hazardous bioactive colour pigments and chemicals like aromatic hydrocarbons and naphthylamine, which are known to cause lung, gastrointestinal and bladder cancer and therefore, packing hot food items in used newspapers can cause slow poisoning,” gastroenterologist Dr Wasim Khawaja told ‘The News’.

Dr Wasim, a staff member of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, also declared the use of polythene bags and papers to serve hot food items extremely unsafe for people’s health.

“The plastic bags contain polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, which may cause severe health problems. It has been observed that the hot food and drinks get contaminated with the hazardous carcinogenic chemicals after being packed or dispensed in such material,” he said.

The gastroenterologist also warned the people against microwaving food in newspapers and plastic bags, saying the act could expose them to cancer-related health complications.

After the formulation of the PTI government in the centre three months ago, minister for national health services and regulation Aamer Mehmood Kiani is understood to have ordered among many other public health initiatives the launch of a programme to control the wrapping of fried foods in used newspapers and the packing of takeaways food in plastic bags. He also asked the relevant officials to create public awareness of the harmful effects of the practice on people’s health.

Now, the ministry has developed plans to phase out the use of newspapers and plastic bags to pack food in the country by 2020 and 2021, respectively.

“We will ban the use of newspapers and polythene bags and sheets in Islamabad Capital Territory for storing, wrapping, distributing and selling food items, while policy guidelines will be issued to the provinces for the purpose in the post-devolution regime,” said a ministry official.

He said the ministry would also engage all stakeholders to serve the end besides developing biocompatible alternatives for used newspapers and plastic bags to serve food, while comprehensive awareness campaigns would be launched to discourage the poisonous food packing.

The doctors hailed the ministry’s initiative and said it would go a long way in furthering the cause of public health in the country.

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