Prioritising safety of customers

Khor is now using adhesive tape to seal plastic bags containing biscuits instead of staples. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

For years, kuih trader Nur Aqidah Mohamad Hidir has refrained from using staples to seal her food containers.

The 30-year-old, who started her business about six years ago, said she uses rubber bands instead because this is safer and more convenient for her customers.

“All these years, I’ve used only rubber bands. My father is strictly against the usage of staples.

“My customers can reseal the containers or reuse the bands after disposing of the containers.

“Most importantly, this way is safer for children who might struggle with opening containers that are sealed with staples. There is also the risk of the staples falling into the food.

“To us traders, cost is the least of our concern,” said Nur Aqidah, who trades in Jelutong, Penang.

Biscuit seller Khor Beng Chuan, 34, who joined his father’s business over 10 years ago, said using staples to seal plastic bags was faster, but they have stopped the practice to comply with the law.

“Staples will ensure that the bags do not reopen while adhesive tape may peel off.

“However, to comply with the law, we now use adhesive tape instead to seal our packages.

“This method takes us a bit more time but is not too troublesome.

“Usage of tapes also makes it safer for children as staples might injure their fingers,” he said.

Checks around the George Town area found some traders were still using staples to seal packages containing raw and dried food ingredients.

Meanwhile, some outlets were seen wrapping their freshly-made food in wax paper before bagging them in plastic bags, while others used containers with clip-on lids.

Penang environment and welfare committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the usage of staples or nails on food packaging is banned and action can be taken against producers or packagers if found guilty.

“Awareness campaigns and educational enforcement have been ongoing, but there are still many outlets that are unaware of such regulations.

“We have advised and warned these traders to sign a letter of undertaking to not sell food in stapled packages,” he said.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah recently said traders who use nails, staples or similar items that are dangerous in their packaging could be prosecuted in court.

He added that if convicted, the traders could face a maximum fine of RM10,000, a jail term of up to two years, or both, and heavier sentences could be imposed if such items are found inside the food.

Section 13 of the Food Act 1983 states that anyone found preparing or selling food with hazardous items found inside can face a fine, a jail sentence or both if found guilty.

The maximum sentence under Section 13 is a fine of RM100,000, a jail term of not more than 10 years or both, upon conviction.

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