What we eat and what we eat in: Need for law on food containers

  • While Indian legislation is cracking down on single use plastics, containers are a harder one.
The containers we and others globally use are likely to be contaminated with heavy metals.(Shutterstock)
The containers we and others globally use are likely to be contaminated with heavy metals.(Shutterstock)
Updated on Oct 25, 2021 04:31 AM IST
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Urban middle-class India has embraced take-out food with gusto. During the pandemic, this intensified. But what else were people imbibing, apart from food? A new study, ‘Occurrence, potential release and health risks of heavy metals in popular take-out food containers from China’, by researchers Yu Han, Jiali Cheng, Di An, Ying He, Zhenwu Tang, published recently in Environmental Research, is worrying. According to the researchers “the summed carcinogenic risks of Cadmium, Lead, Nickel and Cobalt were unacceptable under specific exposure frequency, although the total non-carcinogenic risks from metal intake were low”.

What does this mean for you and me? It is obvious that the containers we and others globally use are likely to be contaminated with heavy metals. While Indian legislation is cracking down on single use plastics, containers are a harder one. This study talks of cancer, but the heavy metals it discusses can cause several other disorders, from nerve and brain damage to poisoning of the nephric system.

India needs standards and public testing as a first step to regulate containers that will, hopefully, be entirely replaced. Manufacturers should be registered, their goods bearing their details. It is sometimes possible to carry one’s own reusable containers but for most part, the idea is still laden with loopholes. These must be plugged, though shifts in culture, behaviour, logistics and innovation. Leaning on the Precautionary Principle, India should act on whatever data exists. As the pandemic showed us, health is literally, national wealth. What we eat matters, but what we eat in matters equally.

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Saturday, December 04, 2021