Plastic food packaging ‘safe’

The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs will not ban plastic packages for food materials and plastic carry-home bags as there is no evidence that they are harmful, a ministry statement said. “Research agencies have not come up with any evidence of the hazards of using plastic packaging for food materials,” the statement said. The ministry sought the advice of research agencies such as the Saudi Standards Specifications and Quality Organization, the General Authority for Food and Drugs, College of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the King Saud University and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) concerning the risks involved in using plastic for the packing of food materials. The College of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the KACST said that it was difficult to determine the harm in the use of plastic packages for bottling and preservation of food materials as it required knowledge of the precise amount of time it takes for any harmful element to pass from the plastic substance to the food material. The Food and Drugs Authority informed the ministry that it was taking steps to update the Gulf Statutes of 1863/2008 pertaining to plastic packaging so that it may be supplied to the ministry without delay. The ministry also reaffirmed its efforts to monitor and ensure the safety of food products including food packages. It is also keen to ban the use of any substance harmful to the health of the consumer, it said in the statement. In addition to using sophisticated devices to monitor the quality of food products, the ministry insists that the packed food products and preserved food be labeled with the details of the ingredients, date of validity and other packaging specifications. Plastic companies and food manufacturers have been fearing that plastic food packages and bags may be banned following reports of their harmful effects on human health. A source at the Kingdom’s plastic manufacturing sector said the manufacturers had prepared plans to face any ban on their products. However, the Presidency of Meteorology & Environment Protection recommended the use of paper bags instead of plastic bags as practiced in advanced countries. The owner of a plastic bag company in Jeddah, who wished to remain anonymous, said the new policy of the ministry would guarantee the continuation of their manufacturing of plastic bags.

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