By Tara Narayan

PLASTIC PACKAGING IS EVERYWHERE IN THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY (only liquor comes in designer glass bottles)… Takeaway food from restaurants and eateries is invariably packed in plastic boxes and then deliver in paper bags sealed with deadly staple pins or cello tape! A lot of food is also packed in see through cling film. It is certain now that hot food sealed in any kind of so called packed plasticware changes the molicular texture of the food and it can lead to carcinogenic effect.

HONESTLY, I’m sick of it. Every time I go out and buy some food it comes in plastic containers packed in brown paper bags. Oh, the ironic I don’t know, I don’t care hypocrisy of it even amongst the very wealthy educated restaurants. I don’t know what should come first, wealth or education, in this country, like both are not related. Last week I brought home a shahi aloo tikki from a five-star hotel I’m comfortable in (Miramar Fortune) – the tikki came packed in a corrugated eco-friendly container along with four other smaller similar containers containing curd, gram flour sev crunchy, pomegranate seeds, the most delicious mint green chutney…all had plasticky covers sealed crosswise with cello tape.
Then at home at the dining table by the time I was done with all the un-taping – an elaborate careful operaton — the aloo tikki was cold under the whirling fan and a monsoon day with rain pouring outside. A unraveled cello tape caught on a finger nail and the entire container spilled out its delicious mint chutney on the table much to my despair.
Another time I’m fighting either with these itsy bitsy monster staple pins; or tearing away plastic coverings of food containers and in the process making an utter mess, etc. Really, food has no business being packed in plastics and in fact it should be banned. Now listen, most times I do take my own stainless steel dibba, so much so that some of the iconic eateries I go to, some staff smile at me and ask, “Have you brought your own dibba?”
I say, Yes. They’re happy but various kitchen staff have an idea of portions only if they’re packing the puri-bhaji, onion-tomato slices, only in THEIR own plastic containers. My steel dibba will err on the side of more or less sabzi or dal or onion-tomato slices! Meaning I will get more or less portions depending on the packer’s frame of mind.
Once I actually came home with an empty dibba — just because I didn’t check at Sweet Nation whether the dibba in my bag was packed with my order of puri-bhaji or not. Or not! Since I live close by I returned and a sheepish staffer did the needful rectification of filling up my dibba order. Of course I should have checked my own dibba whether it was packed or not before paying at the cashier’s and leaving in a hurry to get home before rain started falling!
THE truth is I get frustrated when I come home to unravel a pile of plastics with various food items in them which one may condescend to eat or not after all the trouble and expenditure. But I hate it when I don’t or forget to take my own dibba and get mixed reactions all around from hotel or eatery staff. The woman with the dibba! Funny or not funny, when I go to a 5-star I don’t take my own dibba although occasionally I do where I’m familiar with the staff.

… Traditionally food in India is packed and served in leafware, so eco-friendly!

In fact, I think, all restaurants and eateries must give a discount to whoever brings their own dibba or bag for takeaway food, especially since this is happening on such a massive scale! They can save on their containers of plastic and brown paper bags. Alas, no restaurateur has the gumption to do it of course and consumers who pack away food too tend to be couldn’t care less.
LET me tell you food packed in plastics tends to change the flavor of the food on contact with the hot food. Microplastics? I’m not sure yet but the famous wellness company of Two Brothers Organic Farms (of super foods fame) are now demanding for a ban on plastics in food packaging for reasons of health concerns and I’m with them (Satyajit and Ajinkya of village Pune) and for more than one reason.
We take plastics for granted and have no problem dumping them in our bins, little realizing where their journey leads them only to return in our lives in a myriad seemingly impossible ways. Read up the story of micro plastics taking over our earth, our environment, our bodies…taking us down the road of perdition more and more. We don’t know and we don’t care? In small easy things to do please take your own dibba please when doing takeaways of food, keep the dibba them in your car, in your two-wheeler dicky like I do so that if I suddenly feel like packing home some food from somewhere…I don’t have to worry about the nightmare at the dining table at home of unwrapping plastics, tapes, breaking or bruising finger nails on staple pins which often times prick and draw blood, but worse still may unwittingly drop into the food you’re shifting on to a plate or bowl…staple pins have been known to be injurious once trapped in mouth or throat.
ARE we ever going to walk the talk and ban something as serious as plastics of any kind plain or designer quality when it comes to the food we put in our mouth?
It is time to think of how microplastics are infiltrating into our body beautiful, they are injurious to health and carcinogenic. Yet another study tells me that we should forget about chopping on these plastic cutting boards no matter how colorfully pretty they look! Truth is every time we go chop, chop, chop or cut, cut, cut…yes, bits of microplastics make into our food which we later cook up in pressure cooker or in other ways. So what should we use? I realize that I too have a chopping board in my kitchen and yes, it is of some dense plastic material. There’re already fine furrows on it with constant usage…microplastics in food courtesy chopping boards? Think again, switch over to using a hardwood board … is it better to consume fine microwood than microplastic then? How about stoneware? What is not injurious to the gut where so many of our health problems begin? It’s bad enough that we don’t know what to eat and how to eat it for optimal health values, to live healthier and longer!
Anyway I’m with whoever is taking the matter of plasticware in the food industry to court. Zero use of plastics in food packaging please. I know plastics are everywhere today and it’s become very hard not to buy this, that and everything of daily use in a kitchen…flimsy and thin plastics are everywhere, recently I revolted when some of the most scrumptious sandwiches I’ve eaten came wrapped in plastic cling film so that they looked so beautiful packed too! But warm up things in plastics and you will see a faint difference in taste, check today how many microplastics you’re consuming wittingly or unwittingly.
Next time I’m taking my own banana leaf lined dibba to this caterer who makes the most divine veg and non-veg sandwiches in Goa, not telling you who! No cling film for me, please.

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