Paper banana leaves safe

PETALING JAYA - The Health Ministry has declared the paper banana leaves used in some Indian restaurants as safe to be used as wrapping material for food.

Director-general Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said the green paper used to make the artificial banana leaves is similar to the brown wrappers used to wrap nasi lemak.

It is lined with a thin plastic layer, which complies with the Food Regulations 1985, he said yesterday.

Dr Hasan said the ministry had investigated claims by the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) last month that the fake banana leaves may contain colouring and ink that could be harmful to health.

Our investigations have found that the banana leaf-shaped paper was imported from India by the restaurant owner and used at the restaurants seven branches in Selangor, he said.

Dr Hasan said the ministry had tested the paper for phthalate, Bisphenol A (BPA) and various colouring agents.

Phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA), which are used in the production of plastics, have been shown to affect the levels and functions of certain hormones in the human body.

Dr Hasan added that ministry-approved colouring was found in the sample but not phthalate and BPA.

(Those who are responsible for) food wrappers that contain toxic substances can face action under the Food Regulations 1985, which carries a RM5,000 (S$2000) fine or a jail sentence of not more than two years upon conviction, said Dr Hasan.

He urged CAP to forward its test results to the ministry so that it could conduct further investigations in Penang.

In response, CAP president S.M. Mohamed Idris said CAP was willing to submit its results to the ministry.

Meanwhile, some Indian restaurant operators have said that the paper leaves they have been using are Sirim-certified.

They said the change from real banana leaves to the paper alternative was for the sake of hygiene and due to the shortage of banana leaves in the country.