SAS Paper banana leaves safe, The Star19-MAY-12
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 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.
By Kim Boodram
Story Created: Oct 12, 2011 ECT
Story Updated: Oct 12, 2011 at 2:30 AM ECT
Soharee or "so real"?
Most Trinidadians will be familiar with the East Indian tradition of eating on a leaf – usually a soharee and when that is scarce, sometimes a banana leaf. Well, a new practice has come to town, one that is quickly picking up a following in India and other areas where the diaspora has settled – the paper leaf. Formed to resemble the beloved soharee, these 'leaves' are made of food grade paper and are resistant to the hottest choka or the runniest karahi (a type of dhal).
And with the Hindu festival of Divali set for October 26, sales are expected to increase. Thick and featuring a glossy side, this 'leaf' is moisture repellent for the most part of the meal and can be folded and disposed of in the same way as traditional organic leaves. A representative of Caroni-based Chatak Foods, the sole local distributors of Indian-manufactured SAS Paper Banana Leaf, said the modern take is gaining popularity because of its conveniences.
"These are much easier to access that traditional leaves," the representative said. Usually, the host of the Indian function would have to find an area where the soharee grows and have them cut. This is sometimes done by family members but with people becoming busier, this has also become a service for which the host will sometimes pay. With the annual urban sprawl, finding healthy, clean soharee leaves takes longer than in years past.
The leaves then have to be carefully washed and for some, stacked according to size. "This is all eliminated with the SAS leaves," the Chatak Foods representative said. "They are also very affordable, sold in packs of 100 for $50. So far, people really like them. This way, traditionalists do not have to give up eating with their hands for Divali or for prayers, which Indians believe makes the food taste sweeter." Business Express took the liberty of testing the paper leaves and it did indeed stand up to a runny mixture of basmati rice, aloo mutter and dhal makhani. SAS Paper Banana leaves are being sold at all branches of The Little Store and Chatak Foods has assured the public that its stocks can withstand high demand.