Expert: Many plastic food wrappers and containers unsafe

Expert: Many plastic food wrappers and containers unsafe
Healthier way: A ‘char kway teow’ seller putting an order into a plastic bag. Consumers in Selangor are advised to bring their own containers for takeaways as a safer option.
Photo: The Star/Asia News Network

PETALING JAYA - The Government should look into the use of paper wrappers for foodstuff to replace the plastics used now, a toxicologist said.

Universiti Malaya toxicologist Prof Dr Mustafa Ali Mohd said plastic wrappers were not only bad for the environment but many had compounds not yet verified as safe.

These compounds were Bisphenol A (BPA) and newer types Bisphenol B (BPB), Bisphenol S (BPS) and Bisphenol AF (BPAF), he said.

"These may affect the endocrine system in the long term and can also lead to fertility and thyroid problems, as well as diabetes," said Dr Mustafa, adding that phthalates, chemicals used in making plastics, had been linked to obesity.

He explained that Bisphenols make plastic stronger and prevent yellowing in the products but the substances could leach when in contact with fat, such as that in meat and milk.

"They can react with food having a strong acidic content, such as assam and lime juice.

"The chemicals can also leach when hot liquids, such as teh tarik or coffee, is poured into a plastic container," he added.

Although feeding bottles containing Bisphenol A (BPA) was banned in 2012, the chemical was still used in making other plastic products, such as containers and wrappers, said Dr Mustafa.

He also pointed out that BPA which is also still being used in most plastic material, cooking material and the lining in soft drinks can to prevent rusting, was known to affect the estrogen receptor in women.

Dr Mustafa was speaking in response to the Selangor government banning polystyrene food packaging and plastic bags at retailers from this month.

He said a change to paper-based food wrappers and safer food containers would complement the ban.

He suggested the use of glass or Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles for keeping food.

PET was still a plastic but did not contain Bishphenol or phthalates, he said.

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