Sunday, August 25, 2013


Drinking beverages like soda and fruit juices is considered more convenient if a straw is used to such out the contents from the bottle directly or from a glass full of it. But rarely any one gives any thought to the safety of these straws offered in different places, especially in small juice or soda joints most of which use straws of indifferent quality. There are no standards for straws in many countries and under such an environment it is easy for many to indulge in production of straws of low quality and make a fast buck in the process. World over it is estimated that about a billion straws are manufactured for drinking liquid products and imagine the trash value of these disposable material which are littered all around in towns and cities with no strict environmental discipline. Straws which used to be made of paper a few years ago are ow made mostly from polypropylene plastics or polystyrene material with no biodegradable credentials. Besides these "tubes" can pose serious health dangers if the quality of raw material and ingredients used are not of food grade as it is reported from China recently. Here is a take on this little known area of food industry.  

"According to food experts, some straws could contain hazardous materials that can dissolve into drinks. Long term use can cause harm to the digestive system, premature sexual development, infertility or even cancer. An investigation team led by Lou Zhongping, who helped draft the standards on drinking straws, began inspections of wholesale stores in Shanghai's Yu Garden in early July and concluded only 10 percent of straws were qualified. Inspections 
also revealed forged quality safety logos. "In wholesale stores, we found the logo was hard to read and could be erased easily," said Lou,who is also president of the largest manufacturer of drinking straws worldwide, Soton DailyNecessities. Despite a request on July 3 by the market watchdog requiring that stores remove the straws from their shelves, a vendor said that the
straws are still being sold. Most of the quality safety logos are counterfeit, headded, showing a bag full of colorful drinking straws."Many beverage and milk tea stores as well as schools buy straws regularly, and we sell hundreds of packs every month," said the vendor, who only wanted
to be identified as Chen. In a beverage shop named Guoxiang in the Jing'an district, a manager surnamed Yang said he purchases straws from markets in YuGarden, and has never been aware of the safety concerns. Insiders said thick straws, such as those used for bubble tea, 
tend to be more at risk because they use more materials and are more expensive to make. "The price of a qualified straw is around 0.1 yuan ($0.016), which is double or even triple the price of a substandard one," said Han Ying, business department manager of Shanghai Guanxuan, a company that makes household products. "There is no threshold for producing inferior drinking straws asit's easy to attain recycled plastics, and anyone could start 
a business with several machines at home," she added. There are five straw producers in Zhejiang province's Yiwu, an international trade hub that produces at least 90 percent of the straws in the Chinese market, but the number of unlicensed producers in the country is more than 200, insiders said. The health supervision department in Changsha, Central China's Hunan province, issued a warning in May that some drinking straws might contain toxic substances after the findings of Lou's investigation".

The basic question raised by some health pundits is whether there is any need for using a straw at all in the instance? A very relevant issue. The Straw apologists contend that use of this contraption avoids contact of the sugary beverage with the teeth to a significant extent lessening the possibility of dental decay but there is very little evidence to support this argument. After all to get the full pleasure of drinking a beverage it is necessary that the liquid is moved around the mouth for the palate to sense the taste and flavor and even if a straw is used most will keep it in the oral cavity at least for a few seconds before gulping. Use of straw is also claimed to be helpful in avoiding contact of the mouth with the glass or cup which may be dirty or unhygienic. But it is silly to imagine that the contents in a dirty glass would be clean! All said and done it is time that strict safety standards are put in place for drinking straws immediately to protect the unwary consumers.  

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