Sumayya Khalid


Source of information, news and future reference, newspapers are being used excessively in wrapping fried food items. Commonly food vendors use newspapers and recycled paper extolled with black colored ink for packaging foodstuffs. At restaurants and even at home newspaper is used as excessive oil absorbent for fried foodstuff.  Using newspaper wrappers for fried food is an extremely unhealthy practice which is detrimental to physical health, even if the food items have been cooked hygienically. The hot food items assist the trickling of chemicals from carbon ink and paper into the foodstuff.

Inks used for newspaper printing may also include injurious pigments, colors, binders, photoinitiators, preservatives, and additives. It also comprises a higher proportion of lead, the key factor of paint. Use of lead in any manner is unsafe for health. Moreover, it also includes organic chemicals like 4-Aminobiphenyl, 2-Naphthylamine, benzidine, and naphthylamine which on long-term exposure may cause bladder and lung cancer among the public. Mineral oil used in inks contains Mineral Oil Aromatic Hydrocarbons (MOAH) and Mineral Oil Saturated Hydrocarbons (MOSH). Usually, by evaporation, these change into gases that finally enter into the foodstuff. In food items, the safe upper limit for the MOSH is just 0.6mg/kg (Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/ World Health Organization (WHO).

Generally, newspapers are formed by an offset-web printing system, which involves a definite uniformity of the ink (thick ink) and a meticulous way of drying. For the earlier, mineral oils and solvents like toluene, benzene and methanol are used; and for the second, heavy metal (cobalt) based agents are used for drying. All of these are harmful to consumer’s health if used in food packaging.

Sometimes vegetable oil is used in ink formulation instead of mineral oil, but due to the strong aroma, it also should not be used in food wrapping. Besides harmful chemicals, the presence of pathogenic microbes in used newspapers also poses threat to the health.

Even cardboard boxes made of recycled paper may be polluted with dangerous chemicals such as phthalate which affect the digestive system and may lead toward severe toxicity. Recycled papers may also contain residues of ink from the former print which may contain hormone disruptors such as mineral oils and benzophenones. They may interfere with the reproductive cycle, particularly in females. When making tea, mostly people squeeze the teabag by using the tag fixed at the other side of thread end.  It is strongly recommended to squeeze teabag by using thread only as ink can seep from the tag.

In the western countries, there are strict rules forbidding the use of toxic materials in printing ink. There are even stricter regulations for the ink used on labels of food packets with the condition that no foodstuff should come in contact with the ink.

There are 4 laws in Pakistan regarding food safety measures which are as following;

  • The Pure Food Ordinance, 1960;
  • The Cantonment Pure Food Act, 1966;
  • Pakistan Hotels and Restaurant Act, 1976, and;
  • The Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority Act, 1996.

 Interior ministry of Pakistan on Friday, 7th September 2018, said that mostly shopkeepers provide naan, roti, pakoras, samosas, and jalaibies wrapped in newspaper bags. This practice which is injurious to health goes unchecked due to lack of any penalty in existing law of Pure Food Ordinance, 1960. Jaundice, respiratory infection, and indigestion are spreading in public due to the harmful effects of ink used in newspapers. Interior Ministry has primed a bill named as ICT Food Safety Act 2018 which would be helpful in keeping an efficient check on the provision of food items in newspaper bags.

However, as an educated citizen it is our responsibility also to discourage use of newspaper in packaging by spreading awareness among food business operators and consumers. Our health is in our hands, and it is necessary that we should start protecting it.

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