Rwandan Standards Board (RSB) has banned the use of packaging materials with printing inks to wrap food.
The decision was reached on after complaints from the public on how shops wrap items like samosas, mandazi in old newspapers and documents from offices or school.
RSB urged local authorities and other players to help the regulatory authority in enforcing the directive.
“Children, pregnant women, and other people are at a greater risk of acquiring health complications if they are exposed to food packed in such materials,” RSB wrote in the directive.
Raymond Murenzi, the Director General of Rwanda Standards Board, said the standard code outlines the specifications and components of what should be used to package edible products.
“The directive is a warning. Those who will fail to comply with the regulations will be subject to punishment, including confiscation of products, a fine ranging from 2-5 million and 2 - 5 years of imprisonment,” Murenzi said.
In an interview with The New Times, Charles Karangwa, a senior lecturer and specialist in toxicology at the College of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Rwanda, explained the dangers of printing inks.
Ink, usually used in newspaper printing, may contain bioactive materials, harmful colours, pigments, binders, additives, preservatives, chemical contaminants and even pathogenic microorganisms that may pose a potential risk to human health, he said.
“That ink might cause respiratory ailment that could potentially last long due to the organic compounds it contains,” Karangwa said.
Vendors claim that the re-use of the paper helps to keep their operational costs low. However, Murenzi dismissed the argument, saying the standards body carried out a market research that established the availability and affordability of decent packaging material.