Bakeries and eateries in Qatar will have to do away with plastic bags and utensils within three months, according to senior officials of National Food Control Committee.
The Cabinet decision (No. 1 of 2009) on provisions for packing food will be implemented by the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) and violators will have to face stringent penalties.
“Eateries will be informed about the new rules and alternative materials that can be used in 10 days. After this, they will be give 90 days to implement the regulations,” said Dr Mohammed Al Thani, Director, Public Health Department, and Chairman of National Food Control Committee.
As per the decision, paper bags, wraps and cups should be used to pack hot food instead of plastic, aluminium or foam materials which are used now.
“The decision comes due to Qatar’s keenness to protect people here from health risks posed by plastic bags and cups, and foam used to pack hot food and drinks. Qatar is a leading country in the region when it comes to health maintenance and now food packing. The standards on packing came after a deep study and research on the topic and the suggested alternatives will not cause financial burden on the consumer or the owners of restaurants and bakeries,” he said.
The new regulation makes it mandatory that eateries pack all sorts of hot bread, pastries, take away foods and drinks in paper bags instead of plastic or foam ones.
The papers used must be clean and plain without any printing. Cups used should not have the waxy lining which is seen in some of the ones available in the market. Hot food including pastries should not be put directly in plastic bags, instead, it should be covered with paper first. Eateries should also not use staples or metal to fasten the packs, instead stickers can be used.
Alternative materials suggested by the committee are paper, glass or ceramic. However, these regulations are applicable only in case of hot food, not cold ones.
“It is important that people should be aware of health hazards associated with the current packaging. These alternative materials are environment and health friendly and can be recycled. The materials available in the market will be subjected to checks at the Standards and Laboratory Department. Meanwhile, tin or aluminium materials used for packing hot foods are still being researched to determine the health impact,” said Dr Mohammed bin Saif Al Kuwari, head of the Standards and Laboratory Department at the Ministry of Environment and the deputy chairman of the committee.
Violators of the food packing requirement will be strictly prosecuted according to penalties set for health requirement at eateries.
“After 90 days from the announcement date, we will see these rules are strictly implemented. Violators will initially be warned and if they do not comply with the requirements, they can be heavily fined or outlets can be shuttered,” said Abdullah Saeed Al Arjani, Assistant Director, Daayein Municipality, Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning.
The officials stressed that plastic and similar material used in packing food impose huge health risks. Studies show that hot food causes chemical components of the plastic to leach into the food and enter human body causing diseases including cancer, birth defects, hormone changes, respiratory problems, gastric ulcers, and eye and liver problems. The officials from Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Municipality and Urban Affairs and Ministry of Economy and Trade attendee the event.
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