80 percent of napkins in restaurants unsafe

08:51, April 08, 2010      

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About 80 percent of the paper napkins used in Beijing restaurants have been tainted with poisoned chemicals and are unsafe, according to a food-packaging expert.

Dong Jinshi, vice president of the Hong Kong-based International Food Packaging Association (IFPA), told the Global Times that cancer causing chemicals and heavy metal residue capable of damaging blood cells have been found in substandard paper napkins.

Dong said that while high-star and chain restaurants can boast reliable paper napkin suppliers that monitor napkin quality, "most small and medium restaurants buy their napkins at random at market. Some even use toilet paper. "

The IFPA also conducted a nine-year long research project on disposable dishware, and found that half of the containers used in Chinese restaurants for take-out are unsafe. The association's research was based on statistics provided by the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, one of China's top quality inspection agencies.

Dong said that low costs drive restaurants to use poor quality napkins, adding "since restaurants do not charge for paper napkins, some think diners shouldn't complain."

A diner surnamed Liu eating at a restaurant in Chaoyang district told the Global Times that she never uses paper napkins provided to her by restaurants.

"I dine out quite often," she said, "and I'm not surprised to hear that paper napkins at restaurants are poor quality… Some are yellow, and some are easily torn. But what can you expect when they are given away for free?"

A waiter at the restaurant where Liu was eating refused to say where the restaurant purchases its paper napkins.

Chinese law forbids the use of recycled paper as a raw material in the production of paper napkins. The adding of fluorescent dyes to brighten the paper is also forbidden.

According to Dong, the management of napkin quality control is in the hands of China's health agencies, not quality control authorities, making effectively spotting violations difficult.

"Only quality control agencies can enforce these laws to ensure the production of high-quality paper napkins," said Dong. "Quality indicators set by health agencies only focus on issues of cleanliness, which in this case is just not enough."

Source: Global Times


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