Will 2016 spell the end of nasi lemak bungkus in newspapers?

Suhaib Rahim, 32, wraps takeaway food using old newspapers at his stall in Petaling Jaya. — Picture by Azneal Ishak
Suhaib Rahim, 32, wraps takeaway food using old newspapers at his stall in Petaling Jaya. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

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PETALING JAYA, Dec 9 — The Health Ministry is looking into imposing a nationwide ban on using printed paper for wrapping cooked food after Perlis announced that it will do it from January 1 next year.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the Perlis health department had acted within its jurisdiction.

“It is likely conditions on the ground prompted the decision as the use of printed paper to wrap food is not common in large cities or in all states.

“The widespread use of newspaper to wrap food had possibly raised health concerns. It is more an issue that affects cottage industries and smaller businesses,” he said.

However, Subramaniam said the ministry has long recommended that printed paper not be used for wrapping food and there was merit in seeing whether a nationwide ban should also be implemented.

“We will hold a discussion to study how to standardise the policy,” he told reporters after launching the second EU-Asean Forum on Food Safety.

Dr Subramaniam also said the safety risk posed by the use of printed paper, particularly old newspapers, should be taken seriously.

“Besides the ink, countless hands would have handled that paper before it was finally used to wrap your food.”

This poses a real and imminent danger to those consuming such food. Those using newspaper would add a sheet of plastic which poses its own safety hazards,” he said.

The minister also said the ban was not meant to punish those who were found to be still using printed paper to package food but rather to drive home the importance of food safety.

“We are not trying to penalise the small entrepreneurs who depend on this to earn a living. We just want to ensure safe food practices are observed,” he said.

Perlis health committee chairman Jafperi Othman announced the statewide ban on Monday, saying that the ink used in print could be toxic.

“Carcinogens in the ink can affect a person’s digestive system and increase toxicity in the human body,” Jafperi said.

Those violating the ban could face legal action under Regulation 36 of the Food Hygine Regulations 2009 under which a fine not exceeding RM10,000 or a maximum two years’ jail.

Such a regulation is not unique in the country as Penang council member Ong Ah Teong said the state had been enforcing such a ban since 1998 and fined food operators RM20 per violation.

“The ban also applies to frozen food wrapped in newspaper,” Ong said.

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