Health Ministry to check safety of fake banana leaves

PETALING JAYA - The Health Ministry will look into claims that the "fake banana leaves" used by some Indian restaurants are harmful to health.

"We will verify what these fake leaves are made of," said its director-general Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman when contacted yesterday.

He was responding to claims by the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) that the "leaves" had been dyed green and may also contain harmful leftover ink.

In a press conference yesterday, CAP president S.M. Mohamed Idris said the "fake banana leaves" used by restaurants could be harmful to health as they were made of recycled newspapers.

He said the additives used could emit chemicals when hot food is placed on the leaves.

"I urge the authorities to take action under the Trade Description Act against restaurant operators who serve meals on these fake banana leaves," he said.

"Research has shown that the surface of the banana leaf also has antibacterial properties.

"It is biodegradable unlike the paper leaves which are not environmentally friendly," said Mohamed Idris

He claimed restaurant operators were trying to cut costs as the paper banana leaves only cost RM5.50 per stack of 100 compared to the real leaves which cost up to 30sen each.

Meanwhile, an operator of a popular Indian banana leaf restaurant here said the paper leaves had been certified by Sirim.

"We sent the sample for testing earlier this year and were told that it complied with the requirements of the Malaysian Food Act," said Kanna Curry House restaurant manager Muthu Kumar.

The restaurant said the change was for the sake of hygiene and due to the shortage of banana leaves in the country.