National, Front Page

Food packaging ink is a silent killer

Published : 10 Jan 2023 09:42 PM | Updated : 11 Jan 2023 05:50 PM

Food packaging ink is not only a colour, but can also contain harmful chemicals that are injurious for health and a rising concern globally. 

In Bangladesh there is a monthly demand of 850 tons of packaging ink but how much of it is toluene (Toluene is typically used in a mixture with other solvents and chemicals such as paint pigments.)-free is unknown.  

In Bangladesh, toluene free packaging ink is still neglected. Presence of such chemicals in packaging color can lead towards silent death. The manifold adverse effects make it an issue related to consumer safety, occupational safety and environmental safety. 

Health experts said, due to its developmental toxicity, it is classified as CMR category 2 (suspected of damaging the unborn child).  Furthermore, residual toluene in packaging also impacts the organoleptic properties of the product thus leading to food quality and safety issues. 

Public Health Expert Dr Lelin told Bangladesh Post, “Use of this chemical can create terminal diseases which cannot be avoided. Continuous use of packaging ink contaminated with toluene is hindering the building of a safe nation. When the government is emphasizing on using safe food, the presence of such chemicalS is also pulling us backward.” 

In such a situation, he urged the authorities concerned to create more public awareness and make mandatory policy so that industries are forced to use packaging ink that is toluene free.    

The unfavorable toxicological properties of toluene is the reason why global brand owners like Nestle, Perfetti, Ferrero, Wrigley’s etc. have restricted or even completely banned the usage of toluene in ink formulations intended for food packaging material of their products.

Anticipating its horror Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BSFA) recently published an awareness notice not to have food in an old newspaper. The authority has also attracted the attention of local food shops not to sell ready food items in newspapers.  

BFSA Member Monjur Morshed told Bangladesh Post that they are going to discuss this issue in their next Scientific Committee Meeting. As this is a toxic chemical based on approval, they will prepare a guideline to stop the use of toluene in packaging ink. 

BFSA holds scientific meetings every three months. 

Till date, people only saw the ingredients written on the top of a certain package or pot. But no companies mentioned what colour they use on their packaging. For many years, EuPIA (European Printing Ink Association) excludes toluene from food packaging inks. China, Sri Lanka have been toluene free, seeming its development India has also started to use toluene free packaging ink.

Siegwerk – a German-based one of the leading global ink and coating manufacturers – produces toluene-free safe food packaging inks in Bangladesh to provide it to the local food producers. During a recent visit to Siegwerk Bangladesh Limited factory, its Country Head Angshuman Mukherjee highlighting various aspects said, “No additional cost is needed to produce toluene free ink. Of the total need of 850 tons of packaging ink more than 50 percent is import dependent. After establishing their factory at Meghna Economic Zone they are producing 150 tons of ink monthly at a fully automated ink dispenser integrated machine.” 

While responding to a question he replied, “We are preparing a food packaging guideline to assist the government to exclude toluene-based ink, as they were asked for opinions about better food safety”. 

However, to know more, this correspondent connected to BSTI Director Nilufa Haque WHO told Bangladesh Post, “We are observing the issue. As this is a threat to health we are trying to make a standard based on which its use can be controlled.”

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