Tiruchi’s eateries turn the page on newspapers as food packaging material

FSSAI ban on using newspapers to serve, wrap or store food has made many look for food-grade alternatives; affordability and rising cost is one of the key factors for food sellers using newspapers

December 07, 2023 05:37 pm | Updated 07:29 pm IST - TIRUCHI

Several road side food sellers in Tiruchi still use newspapers as an alternative to disposable paper plates despite the directive from FSSAI not to do so.

Several road side food sellers in Tiruchi still use newspapers as an alternative to disposable paper plates despite the directive from FSSAI not to do so. | Photo Credit: M. MOORTHY

Restaurants and eateries in Tiruchi have started complying with the directive issued in September by Food and Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), to stop using newspapers to pack, serve or store edibles, though some vendors are still to fall in line.

Before the announcement, newspapers were widely used as substitutes for food-grade paper towels and plates to serve edibles, specially fried snacks, mainly because of their affordability.

“A packet of paper plates costs ₹25 to ₹30, whereas 1 kg of newspaper can be bought for under ₹10. This is one of the chief reasons why small shops and street food stalls prefer newspapers,” Arun Anbazhagan, a Food Safety Mitra certified by FSSAI to assist and guide food business operators in Madurai and Tiruchi, told The Hindu.

The ban was accompanied by a warning on the potential health hazards of consuming food that had come into contact with newspapers. “The chemicals used in printing inks contain lead and heavy metals that can leach into the food. Since this is a health-related issue, most food vendors have voluntarily switched to alternatives such as plantain leaf, foil-coated paper plates and butter paper sheets,” said R. Ramesh Babu, Designated Officer, Food Safety and Drug Administration.

Mr. Babu said that Tiruchi’s catering sector had been using newspapers both as serviettes and as a material to soak up excessive oil from deep-fried foodstuffs. “We have been regularly checking up on operators and conducting awareness drives to see that they remove newspapers from their kitchen permanently,” he said.

Despite this, roadside stalls, especially those on the city outskirts, still use newspapers as napkins. “Unless the customer requests differently, food sellers will use newspaper to serve vada, pakoda and other savouries. We have a problem of littering caused by these disposable items. Both vendors and customers must work towards safe food consumption,” said N. Jamaluddin, former president of Tamil Nadu Consumer Rights Council.

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