Materia Medica Malaysiana

July 13, 2007

Not safe to use cheap plastics for hot drinks

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 11:13 am

Star: PETALING JAYA: Plastic bags are not meant for storing hot drinks and the practice should “absolutely not be done”, according to a local researcher.
Prof Dr Mustafa Ali Mohamad, deputy dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya, said yesterday that this was because such plastic bags were not made to last and placing liquids such as hot coffee or tea would promote chemical seepage from the bag into the drink.
This, he said, could be additionally damaging if the drink contained milk which had fat that could further promote leachate of chemicals.
The heat has greater chance of breaking down the polymer compound of the plastic and fat.
“It is not safe, unless the plastic is made for hot drinks. Most of the time, it is made from cheap material that is not too resistant to heat,” he said.
Dr Mustafa Ali advised the public that, to avoid being exposed to chemicals, they should instead pack their drinks in containers or cups specially made for hot liquids.
On polystyrene containers used to pack hot food like fried mee, he said the heat would damage the material and advised that a layer of paper or banana leaf be used to prevent direct contact.
He added it was advisable not to place hot food or drinks in these containers.
Dr Mustafa Ali headed a recently concluded study, commissioned by the Health Ministry, which detected at least one chemical in 45 of 47 containers examined.
However, the level of the leachate detected was low. The study was to analyse chemicals in plastic and polystyrene containers.
He added that it was not his intention to have plastic banned from being used for such purposes but that the public needs to know of the risk involved.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said yesterday that it was difficult to ensure that food operators change plastic-ware.
However, he said in an interview that it was crucial for consumers not to misuse packaging materials in an “unintended or unanticipated manner”.
He added that commercial plastic packaging that had been used for storing non-food items should never be reused as food containers as it may contain non-food residues that would contaminate the food.
On cling films, he advised the public to use only those designated as suitable for use in microwave ovens.

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