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Every Indian has had an unpleasant experience with food related illness at some point in life. Increasing awareness of food safety especially after the Maggi noodles controversy has made everybody concerned about everything related to food.

Strengthening food safety in India is a huge and daunting task due to the changing food habits of Indians, mass catering, supply of food from unhygienic and contaminated sources. Packaging materials used to pack food are a huge source of contamination in food as a  study has shown that chemicals in cardboard boxes used to pack Pizzas and cereals can enter and contaminate the food packed in the boxes.

Cardboard Packaging

Recent studies have shown that Pizza boxes contain Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) classified as a carcinogenic chemical, by the US Environment Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board in 2006. It has been known  to affect the liver, neonatal development, the
immune system, and hormone levels.

It has been known for some time now that toxic substances are present in pizza boxes. Italian studies in 2006, showed that chemicals like benzene, phenols and phthalates (known carcinogens) were known to be probably released from the cardboard boxes. These substances migrate into the food especially at high temperatures and when the food is in direct contact with the box.

Research also proves that chemicals called diisopropyl-naphthalenes (DIPNs) can occur in the cardboard used for food packaging, and may migrate into foods. DIPNs are used in the manufacture of the carbonless copy paper used in credit card receipts, and find their way into
food packaging via recycled paper.

Cling film

Cling film has become safer than before because toxic oestrogen-mimicking chemicals called ‘phthalates’ are no longer used in its manufacture.

However, cling film contains other chemicals that can enter into oily foods and have detrimental health effects.
Avoid wrapping high-fat foods such as cheeses in cling film, and do not to use it in contact with food that is microwaved because according to studies by scientists in Denmark, even specially designed low-migration films can still result in unacceptable levels of chemical intake.

Plastic bottles

The problem with plastic bottles is the chemical called bisphenol A which is used in the manufacture of the transparent lightweight bottles. This chemical helps harden the bottles and is present in water bottles and even  feeding bottles for babies.

Bisphenol A has been linked to reproductive problems and possible cancers later in life and bisphenol has also been found to cause obesity if the person has been exposed to it as a foetus.

Aluminium

Aluminium is widely used to make drinks cans, foil for home kitchen use, and linings for food products like chips packets and juice cartons.

Some researchers opine that dementia and Alzheimer’s are a result of exposure to high levels of aluminium, but the evidence is by no means clear cut. Researchers at the University of Osijek in Croatia found that cola drinks with a high acidity from phosphoric acid were most likely to contain aluminium in a soluble form.

Glass

Glass is one of the safest packaging materials, and can be reused many times with little cost to the environment. But in India we hardly get to see glass packaging of food, as plastic has invaded our lives and kitchens as well.

We definitely need better recycling facilities as well as more encouragement in the market for recycled glass. Consumers need to be made aware of the benefits and safety of using Glass for food packaging which can also be recycled and reused, no wonder our grandparents always used glassware for storing food and lived a long healthy life without the influence of plastics.

Sources:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3005/Is-packaging-poisoning-food.html

http://www.foodsmart.govt.nz/whats-in-our-food/chemicals-nutrients-additives-toxins/plastic-packaging/

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