A health researcher is warning Ghanaians against the use styrofoams, popularly referred to as ‘takeaway’ packs, for packaging food.
The bowlike packs, which have become popular among food vendors in the country, are reportedly made from black waste from petroleum fuel distillation popularly known as coal tar.
Mr Effah Baffo Gyamfi of the University of Ghana Medical School at Korle Bu, who gave the warning said when food is put in the packs, they leach these dangerous chemicals into the food making it toxic for human consumption.
He stated that the chemicals in the takeaway packs called Styrene also cause low sperm counts (having fewer sperms than normal) in men.
Moreover, he told the Graphic Youth World that young men who continuously ate from the takeaway packs could suffer from prostrate enlargement later in life.
“If one eats food from a takeaway pack once every day, it is likely he or she will not survive beyond 10 years,” he added.
Explaining further, Mr Gyamfi said when plastics including takeaway packs come into contact with anything that contains oil, salt, alcohol, heat and acid like pepper, the chemicals in the packs leach the dangerous substances used in their manufacture into the food at a very high rate.
This, he noted, could be dangerous to one’s health.
It is very common in the country these days to find at social gatherings like funerals, weddings, some restaurants as well as food vendors dishing out food in takeaway packs because of the convenience of carrying the food from one place to another.
From waakye to rice and stew, beans and gari, pastries among other foods, people prefer their foods to be dished out in these packs, which come in various colours, shapes and sizes.
Mr Gyamfi said instead of using takeaway packs, food could be put in leaves, foils or one should buy with their own stainless steel bowls.
Ghana Standards Authority
When contacted, the Executive Director of the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), Prof Alexander Nii Oto Dodoo, said the GSA could report only on products legally in the country and those that are submitted to the GSA for certification.
For plastics used to package food, he explained, the GSA has not detected any migration of chemical into the food as per their studies.
“However, we are aware that there are several brands of plastic on sale that have not been assessed by us. We will, therefore, be increasing our market surveillance to ensure that all packaging materials for food in Ghana meet both the Ghana and international standards,” he assured.
Throwing more light on the dangers of eating food or drinking from plastics, Mr Gyamfi cautioned young people who patronised alcoholic beverages stored in small plastic sachets to desist from the practice since by doing that, they could be consuming poison.
“Plastics are made from chemicals that are very dangerous for human health. When these chemicals in plastics come into contact with alcohol, they leach dangerous chemicals such as antimony and phthalate into the alcohol. Phthalate causes low sperm count in men so for those young men who take alcohol in sachets, they might develop low sperm count later in life,” he explained.
Similarly, he said young ladies who patronise alcohol in sachets will have high estrogen levels which cause fibroids.
Alcohol in small sachets are very common in the country nowadays. They come in different brands.They are cheap and because they are small, it can easily be concealed in pockets. Some even keep them in their pockets when they attend social gatherings.
According to the BBC, Cameroun, Malawi and Senegal have banned the sale and production of alcohol in sachets.