By Denis Bollo

As I was heading home after having a busy day at my work station, many thoughts were crisscrossing my mind until something fishy captured my attention. There was this lady buying some cooked githeri from the woman who sells it and I saw the woman design the newspaper in a well nice funnel shape then she puts the githeri inside the funnel shaped newspaper and this left me wondering – is it hygienic?

Following the recent ban on plastic bags in Kenya, traders find themselves in situation that are beyond their control. They have adopted various ways  of packaging their cooked food or even uncooked food.

The ban on the use of plastic bags is good because since it was made effective the environment is cleaner. There are no more plastic bags as we walk around. We all know that plastic bags have for a long time been polluting our environment but my greatest concern – as far as food safety is that traders can use to wrap and package their foods.

We have found traders wrapping food using past exam papers. These are not clean and have a lot of ink on them. Are we waiting for an outbreak of a disease in order to stop this behavior?

Newspapers are normally produced by a system called off set web printing which requires a certain consistency of ink and a particular means of drying; for ink, and compounds such as mineral oil (petroleum based) and solvents such as benzene, toluene and methanol. These are harmful to the human health. The hot oil in mandazi, chapatis facilitates the seepage of chemicals from ink and paper into the food which are hazardous to human health.

There are numerous health concerns raised by food contaminated by newspaper ink because the ink contains multiple bioactive materials known to contribute to negative health effects. The major concerns are Naphthylamine and aromantic hydro-carbons. Direct evidence has been generated  with an increase in  lung cancer among those workers who are in printing newspaper industry  who have been exposed to ink mist containing this chemicals newspaper .

Consumers need to be well educated on the issue of food packaging and wrapping using newspapers so as to save their lives as early as possible and for this to be effective various stakeholders in collaboration with the government should work on thorough research on the best packaging materials that the local business people operating at local level can adopt and use without contamination.

Countries like Rwanda had previously imposed law banning the use of plastic bags and it is high time we go and do some bench-marking to see how the local traders operating at the local level package their food. After that we can borrow the idea and infuse it into the Kenya system







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