Thursday, August 6, 2009

Awareness of Plastic in Food Safety of Malaysia

Have been writing and taking photo on food . It is time Malaysia upgrade the standard and safety of street food stalls and restaurants.

As Malaysian, street food is part of our life, part of our culture, part of our living heritage. It is the same as other food operators, Malaysian just love food.

We cannot avoid street food, and will not stop taking street food.

The street food sellers and other food operators , however need to improve with time, and increase their awareness of food safety. This is apply to restaurants, coffee shops...

The use of plastic chopsticks, plastic spoon, plastic bowls and plates, plastic containers for hot water, soups....and hot food items.....What are the danger?

We used to use wood chopsticks, porcelain bowls and plates.....

The use of disposed chemical containers for water used for food processing....even it is for washing water, the chemical is still remain in the containers.....

Some better food sellers or operators use stainless steel containers. But many used recycled or disposed chemical containers, which was previously used for paints and other chemicals....

I wonder how the local council monitor the food regulation and guidelines(if there is any?)....
If there is guideline in Malaysia, the enforcement must be weak?

Consumers need to know the right of food safety; if the sellers did not comply with the basic food health or safety. Avoid patronizing them.

The citizen, as consumers need to create a culture of food safety in Malaysia.

The following are more facts:

Wikipedia states:

Due to their relatively low cost, ease of manufacture, versatility, and imperviousness to water, plastics are used in an enormous and expanding range of products, from paper clips to spaceships. They have already displaced many traditional materials, such as wood; stone; horn and bone; leather; paper; metal; glass; and ceramic, in most of their former uses.

The use of plastics is constrained chiefly by their organic chemistry, which seriously limits their hardness, density, and their ability to resist heat, organic solvents, oxidation, and ionizing radiation. In particular, most plastics will melt or decompose when heated to a few hundred celsius


However, plastics often contain a variety of toxic additives. For example, plasticizers like adipates and phthalates are often added to brittle plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to make them pliable enough for use in food packaging, children's toys and teethers, tubing, shower curtains and other items. Traces of these chemicals can leach out of the plastic when it comes into contact with food. Out of these concerns, the European Union has banned the use of DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate), the most widely used plasticizer in PVC. Some compounds leaching from polystyrene food containers have been found to interfere with hormone functions and are suspected human carcinogens.[9]

Moreover, while the finished plastic may be non-toxic, the monomers used in its manufacture may be toxic; and small amounts of those chemical may remain trapped in the product. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recognized the chemical used to make PVC, vinyl chloride, as a known human carcinogen.[9] Some polymers may also decompose into the monomers or other toxic substances when heated.(

Resin Identification Coding System
The SPI resin identification coding system is a set of symbols placed on plastics to identify the polymer type. It was developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) in 1988, and used internationally.

Tip your container upside down, look for a number inside a triangle. If no triangle or number is seen it is a grade 1 plastics. The lower the number the faster it breaks down!!:

1(PETE or PET) - Polyethylene terephthalate
2(HDPE) - High Density Polyethylene
3(PVC or V) -Polyvinyl Chloride
4(LDPE) - Low density Polyethylene
5(PP) - Polypropylene
6(PS) - Polystyrene
7 (other or O) - Other plastics, including acrylic, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, fiberglass, nylon, polycarbonate, and polylactic acid

Multiple governments recently moved to ban ingredients present in plastics we use everyday for food storage and handling. The Canadian government declared BPA, a chemical widely used in plastics for baby bottles, beverage and food containers as well as linings in food cans, as toxic. Canada has recently banned the use of BPA in baby bottles.

A recent article in the Washington Post states:
"The move in Canada adds pressure on U.S. federal regulators to reexamine their position on BPA, which is suspected of causing breast and prostrate cancer, diabetes, hyperactivity and other serious disorders in laboratory animals."

Consumer Association of Penang (CAP)’s research officer Hatijah Hashim spoke on the health and environmental effects of plastic bags. She said that plastic is a combination of molecules and not all of the styrene is perfectly formed, and raised doubts on the safety of storing food in plastic containers and its effects on our health.

The article from Harvard stated plasticizers may leak into food, and FDA recognize the potential of small amount to migrate , and it depend on FDA to enforce regulation to control and regulate the plastic food containers( which has potential to leak small amount of plasticizers?). The article extracted as follow:

"When food is wrapped in plastic or placed in a plastic container and microwaved, substances used in manufacturing the plastic (plasticizers) may leak into the food. In particular, fatty foods such as meats and cheeses cause a softening agent called diethylhexyl adipate to leach out. This certainly sounds scary, so it’s little wonder that a warning is making its way across the Web.

..... The FDA, recognizing the potential for small amounts of plasticizers to migrate, closely regulates plastic containers and materials that come into contact with food. Before approving a container, the FDA conducts tests to make sure that it doesn’t leak unsafe amounts of any substance into food "


On 17-4-2008, American Chemistry Council (ACC) sent a letter to FDA to update on BPA (

Extract from some web articles:

1. Polycarbonate plastics, often used to make reusable water bottles, clear plastic food-storage containers and some baby bottles, contain BPA, an estrogen like chemical also used in the linings of some food and drink cans. Studies link BPA to the development of precancerous lesions and abnormal development of reproductive systems in animals. While BPA can leach into food and drinks, whether it actually affects human health is currently not known. However, consumer concern peaked in April after the National Toxicology Program (part of the National Institutes of Health) issued a draft report noting that, given the current science, the possibility couldn’t be ruled out.

2. What is known is that we’re all exposed to plenty of the chemical. In a 2005 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 95 percent of people screened tested positive for BPA.

3. Hot liquids and foods exacerbate leaching in BPA-containing plastics, suggests a study published earlier this year in Toxicology Letters. When researchers poured boiling water into polycarbonate drinking bottles, it caused up to 55 times more BPA to seep out than room-temperature water had.

4. Whether washing containers in hot water causes them to break down and release BPA the next time they’re used isn’t clear: Only a handful of studies have been conducted, and results are conflicting. While heating these plastics in the microwave hasn’t been studied, it’s not recommended. Anila Jacob, M.D., a scientist with the Environmental Working Group, says that we can assume there is increased leaching with any kind of heating.

The Bottom Line: Manufacturers currently aren’t required to label BPA, so there’s no way of knowing if it’s present in the plastics or cans you use. For now, the best way to reduce your exposure is to use stainless steel, glass or plastics labeled “BPA-free.” If you’re not sure about a product contact the manufacturer for more information.

It is still facing some lack of conclusive evidence, on danger of plastic food containers on food, but confirmation obtained that plasticizers do leak into food. The issue is narrow to what is the danger level? So, the decision is on the consumers to exercise their right. Canada ban BPA from infant products, Walmart has start BPA free products, why? Consumers should is just like smoking,it is difficult to obtain conclusive evidence, unless the effect has manifested, that means death or cancer .......

The consumers should stand up for their health; and not wait until the authority to decide, after obtaining their evidence......

For further reading:

1. Phthalate, by www.
4. Resin Identification Code, by
Plastics and your food, by Dr YLM, The Star online, 12-10-2008
6. For people who want to know alternative view(opposing view), from Malaysian Plastic Forum,

No comments:

Post a Comment