LAHORE: Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has decided to eliminate the use of all non-food grade materials from product packaging. The authority has already prepared the Packaging Material Regulations 2018 which will come into force after formal approval of the PFA board.
Speaking to The Express Tribune on Monday, PFA Director General Noorul Amin Mengal said the authority already held a series of meetings with different stakeholders for the preparation of these regulations. “There is huge potential of food grade packaging products in Pakistan, particularly with Punjab being the most populated province of the country. The industry has also expressed its willingness to enhance its capacity to tap this unexplored market,” he highlighted.
Responding to a question, Mengal said there was no earlier law in the province to regulate packaging manufacturers and suppliers. However, after approval of these new regulations, the authority will remove the use of non-food grade materials from the food supply chain in a phase manner. Businesses and industries, including paper and paperboard suppliers, printing presses and plastic manufacturers etc, have to make adjustments in their existing processes. For this purpose, the authority will give them substantial time, he maintained.
“Earlier, the authority started registering and licencing food manufacturers, suppliers and sellers and now it is going to licence food packaging manufacturers. Otherwise, it will be impossible to ensure provision of safe and healthy food products to citizens,” he underscored.
According to the new regulations, the use of old newspapers and printed paper scrap is prohibited for the packing of food products. Use of commonly available white foam board (thermocol) plates and cups is banned, except three-layered similar packaging.
As per the new regulations, it is mandatory to use halal adhesives and nonabsorbent inks in the manufacturing of packaging materials. Three-layered plastic bag is allowed for packaging of edible oil and ghee. Recycling of 19-liter PET (polyethylene terephthalate) water bottles is mandatory after 40 refillings. The authority has also proposed various penalties and punishments for violation of these regulations.
A food technology expert, Muhammad Usman, says the use of non-food grade packaging materials contaminate edibles with toxic substances that cause various diseases. He highlights most packaging materials, including plastic and paper, are porous. There are very high chances of seepage between food item and packaging materials. “Everywhere in the world, there are strict regulations for packaging materials being used in the food sector, but unfortunately Pakistani authorities had maintained a lenient view over the subject.” Earlier, district administrations were inspecting the quality of food items in the country, but the situation has now improved with the establishment of dedicated food authorities, he stated. “However, the prime focus of these authorities is limited to quality of food items and hygiene,” he maintained.
Printing press owner and food packing manufacturer Sajjad Hussain appreciated the move from a consumer’s point of view. “However, being a food products packaging manufacturer, I believe it will be a difficult challenge for both the authority and business community. Except a few big food chains, nobody is using food grade packaging because of cost and lack of food grade paper and paperboard in the market. The authority has ensure of availability of food grade paper products and ink before implementing new regulations as thousands of small units are manufacturing in almost all areas of the province,” he underlined.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2018.