Diners warned on toilet-roll napkins

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 November, 2011, 12:00am


Small restaurants in several mainland cities are putting diners' health at risk by giving them cheap toilet paper to wipe their mouths instead of more costly paper napkins, a newspaper expose has revealed.

The Economic Information Daily, a newspaper affiliated to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, reported that residents of Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, had tipped off authorities about napkins made from toilet paper.

A carcinogenic fluorescent whitener was added to toilet paper made from recycled paper at factories in Binyang county in order to create the napkins, the newspaper said. An employee at the Jincheng Paper Mill was quoted as saying he had no idea what buyers did with its products.

Restaurants often bought substandard napkins to lower costs, the newspaper reported. The packaging instructions on the paper napkins did not indicate to the consumer if the product was safe for use.

The substandard napkins were loose in texture, with shiny spots of fluorescent dust visible. The dust came off after a few shakes.

Binyang county quality and technical supervision bureau chief Li Yongchun told Xinhua that irregularities had been found in paper factories, including the use of recycled paper and whitener with no indication of the product's intended purpose and no certification for paper napkin production.

'Extended contact with the fluorescent whitener might cause cancer,' Li said.

Internet users said that it was common to see such substandard napkins at many restaurants. 'We'd better bring our own napkins,' one person wrote on a Sina microblog.

National standards for disposable products including paper napkins stipulate that raw materials must not be poisonous and that such products must not contain pollutants.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine issued a regulation in 2003 banning manufacturers of napkins from using recycled or printed paper. Wood, grass and bamboo are the only sanctioned raw materials.

But a legal loophole makes enforcement impossible as the Food Safety Law doesn't apply to napkins used in restaurants, the newspaper reported. Managers of restaurants found to be using substandard napkins are not subject to legal punishment.

Professor Xia Xueluan, a Peking University sociologist, said that a regional regulation should be created to tackle the issue. 'The quality supervision department should interfere to better control the quality of restaurant napkins.'