The list of things that experts tell us cause cancer in China is growing forever longer and even more ridiculous. Last month’s killer: cooking oil. This month killer: the napkin!
Yep, you heard right, the Hong Kong-based International Food Packaging Association (IFPA) have now warned that the substandard napkins offered to diners in restaurants could be ridden with chemicals and heavy metal residue capable of damaging blood cells and causing cancer.
So, is there genuine need for concern or has the world’s paranoia about cancer just reached a record high?
It is of course understandable that there should be concern over substances which are consumed, such as food cooked in recycled and waste oil making it carcinogenic and unsafe, as last months article rightly warned. But raising awareness about the dangers of wiping your mouth at a restaurant is surely a totally different ballgame. Is there anything we can touch nowadays that won’t eventually kill us?
Cynicism aside, according to food-packaging experts the danger of using low quality napkins is a very serious one. Around 80 per cent of paper napkins used in Beijing alone, were suspected to be unsafe. Dong Jinshi, vice president of the IFPA explained that ‘most small and medium restaurants buy their napkins at random at market. Some even use toilet paper.’
Some people have suggested that we shouldn’t expect anything different from the napkins if they are free and from low cost restaurants. But that sounds quite ridiculous; it is one thing that the napkins be low quality but quite another that they should be toxic and cancer inducing.
Dong believes the problem is that there is no quality control authority in place to ensure menial products like napkins are good quality. At the moment, only health authorities are in control of maintaining the standards of these products and their main concern is cleanliness rather than the manufacturing of these products.
And it’s not only napkins that we need to worry about. A nine year long investigation by the IFPA also found that the disposable containers and dishware used in restaurants were also unsafe due to them being tainted with poisonous chemicals.
Despite this, the likelihood is that most of us will not think twice before wiping the remnants of chow mien from our faces next time we are at dinner. After all if it’s not the napkins that kill us, it’s sure to be something else. Watch this space for next month’s cancer paranoia, my guess is on toxic chopsticks.