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Health scare over food container boxes

Nearly a week after issuing an emergency notice to restaurants against the use of recycled oil, Chinese authorities have warned people that going for substandard disposable food packing material could result in cancer.

world Updated: Mar 26, 2010 12:56 IST

Nearly a week after issuing an emergency notice to restaurants against the use of recycled oil, Chinese authorities have warned people that going for substandard disposable food packing material could result in cancer.

"Next time you say the word da bao (food backed in a box) at a restaurant, beware, you could end up with a life-threatening disease," official Chinese Daily reported today.

According to Dong Jinshi, vice-president of the Hong Kong-based International Food Packaging Association (IFPA), about half of the disposable dishware (packing material) used in the country are unsafe, with excessive amounts of chemicals that can cause cancer.

The situation in big cities is better, he said, adding that about 30 per cent of disposable dishware found in Beijing is substandard.

Dong told the daily that his figures are based on a nine-year research project conducted by his association, in addition to some documents from the country's top quality watchdog - the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

According to an IFPA report released this month, Chinese use 15 billion disposable food boxes - either made of foam, plastic or paper pulp - each year.

The researchers said tests found that packing material used by two famous restaurants - the 170-year-old Laobian dumpling restaurant and the Dong Laishun restaurant - in Beijing containing excessive amounts of minerals, such as talcum powder and ceresin wax, which contains a substance that can cause cancer.

Zhang Zhisheng, a lawyer from the Beijing Zhongyin Law Firm, confirmed Dong and his team had filed a lawsuit against the two restaurants at the Haidian district people's court, accusing them of selling poisonous foods.

"This will be the first case in which the newly issued Food Safety Law will come into play in consumer rights protection," Zhang said.