Are you in the habit of eating suya, akara (bean cake) and other fried and roasted foods wrapped in printed paper? Experts have warned that such foods are inimical to health because chemicals in the printed paper include lead, a toxic substance that has been linked to the development of low IQ, kidney damage, anaemia and cancer.
Dr Ishiaq Omostosho, a specialist advisor to University College Hospital, Ibadan on toxicology, stated that lead often leaches into food items, especially the fried ones, when it is used as a food wrapper.
The biochemical toxicologist, who remarked that it was misnomer to wrap cooked foods in things such as newspapers or printed leaflets, declared that there is hardly any ink that does not contain lead
“It is an additive to ink to ensure whatever is printed does not easily rub off, fade and that it lasts long,” he declared.
According to him, lead leaches at a faster rate into food when such is packed when hot and when such a food is fried.
The expert remarked that the negative effect of chemicals such as lead when they leach into food is not immediate, adding “the chemicals keep accumulating in the body and only manifest later as chronic diseases such as anaemia, kidney problem and so on.”
According to him, “it is actually the kidney derailment as an effect of lead toxicity that precipitates other problems, especially in people that are seriously exposed.”
However, he added that work is on going to fully understand if ingestion of lead can cause cancer.
“There has been a lot of hypothesis implicating lead and other toxic metals like cadmium and mercury as causative agents of cancer. But lead is still being subjected to a lot of verification,” he said.
Nonetheless, he stated the possibility of cadmium leaching out of a paper used to wrap cigarette, adding that what the paper was previously used to pack also determines how and to what extent it would impart any food it is wrapped with negatively or positively.
Although environmentalists preach recycling of paper, he said there is no harm using a recycled paper for toileting, but not as a cooked food wrapper.
Omotosho, however, warned that children are more vulnerable to lead toxicity, be it from paints, printed paper or toys, adding that there is no safe level of lead exposure.
“The effect of lead exposure by a small kid may not manifest until 10 to 20 years, when the impairment on the brain would have occurred. Often the brain damage may not be reversible,” he said.
Head, Department of Chemical Pathology, College of Medicine, Ibadan, Professor Ganiyu Arinola, stated that other things such as plastics and nylons used in wrapping food, are also bad for health.
Arinola remarked that dioxin, a cancerous substance, is released when plastics are used to microwave food, thus making the food unsuitable for consumption.
Arinola, who noted that wrapping of foods in printed paper should be discouraged, added that use of local wrapping leaves was better.
“It is far better to wrap in leaves rather than paper because the leaf also gives the food a particular flavour. It is for the same reason that wrapping moin moin in leaves is better than nylon,” he declared.