Ink Poisoning Scam: Fish n’ Chips Anyone?

Today’s Hong Kong media scare is a silly story about “ink poisoning”. For years the British have scoffed down fish n’ chips from newspapers soaked in vinegar and tomato sauce! Think about the ink seepage from that? Any side effects or poisonings?

The obvious answer is “no”. No side effects. However, there are direct effects from eating too many fried food items such as chips and deep-fried mars bars … but that’s another story!

French fry lovers told to ink twice before they eat
Adele Wong
Friday, September 18, 2009

Diners who spread their french fries across paper tray mats in fast-food restaurants to get maximum ketchup coverage may be risking ink poisoning.The warning comes from the unlikely source of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, which says the greasy practice is hazardous because ink from the paper may seep into the fries.

But experts at the Centre for Food Safety say the party’s claim is without foundation.

A random DAB inspection of McDonald’s and KFC outlets in the mainland found written warnings advising customers not to put food directly on top of paper mats.

Hong Kong has no such warnings, said Danny Chan Chung-cheung of the DAB.

As a result, mainlanders have developed the habit of putting a paper napkin down before placing their food on the trays.

The center said there is no scientific evidence to prove that ink on food may damage your health.

But Chan urged the center to follow up on the matter and also promote higher hygiene standards in the city’s fast food chains by, for example, placing wash basins near restaurant cashiers and in customer areas to encourage handwashing.

A spokeswoman for the center said customers should not place food directly on tray mats because they are not designed for that purpose.

But she added studies show that when printing ink is ingested it does not pose significant health risks.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman said: “All packaging that is in contact with our food, including the tray mat, are governed by strict quality control measures.

“We also ensure the paint being used [on tray mats] meets international food safety requirements.”

A KFC spokeswoman said all its packaging materials, including paper used in food baskets, are up to food safety standards.

“We are now [considering putting] precautionary wordings on all tray mats,” the spokeswoman said.

Dr Yeung Chi-hung, senior lecturer at Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s department of applied biology and chemical technology, said customers need not worry too much about the health risks of ink.

Yeung said it used to be a general practice in Hong Kong for people to wrap food such as raw meat in newspapers, and he is not aware of any harmful side effects.

Whether ink from tray mats may be absorbed by the food depends on the length of exposure and the area of contact, he said.

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