Health implications of contaminating food with Newspaper ink

*Dr Anirban Ghosh


Street food has become really popular again after Covid. Most street food vendors use newspapers and magazines-papers to serve food. But if you're eating oily food from these, it can soak up more chemicals from the paper into your food.

The contamination of food with print ink is a concerning issue that affects not only emerging nations but also the global population.

The interaction between food, packaging materials, and the environment plays a significant role in determining the safety and quality of food products. 

While the primary purpose of food packaging is to protect food from external factors, it is important to understand that no packaging material is entirely inert. 

This article explores the factors that influence the migration of substances from packaging materials to food and the health implications associated with the use of newspaper ink in food packaging.

Food Packaging and Contamination
Food packaging serves the crucial role of safeguarding food products from environmental factors that can compromise their quality and safety. 

However, the interaction between food and packaging materials can lead to the migration of biochemical elements from the packaging into the food.

This process, known as migration, is influenced by various factors, including the nature of the packaging material, the type of food product, contact duration, temperature, and the packaging material's chemical composition. 

Food-poisonIt is essential to understand that no food packaging material is entirely inert, and therefore, some level of migration is expected.

In many countries, newspapers are still commonly used as food packaging material, particularly in street food vendors and small businesses.

This practice is prevalent in countries like India, where millions of individuals are directly involved in roadside food businesses, offering affordable options to the middle and lower-income classes. 

While newspapers are convenient and readily available, they may introduce contaminants into the food products they come into contact with.

Composition of Newspaper Ink
Newspaper ink, the substance used for printing on newspapers, consists of various components, each serving a specific purpose in the printing process. These components include pigments, resins, solvents, and additives.

Pigments: Pigments are responsible for providing color to the ink and making it opaque. They can be either inorganic or organic in nature, and they often include compounds like carbon black and titanium dioxide.

Resins: Resins are binding agents that help the ink adhere to the printed surface, creating a stable and durable image.

Solvents: Solvents are used to make the ink flow smoothly during the printing process. The choice of solvent depends on the specific printing method and how the ink will be dried.

Additives: Additives are included to modify the physical properties of the ink, ensuring that it performs well under different printing conditions.

The composition of newspaper ink can vary, but it often includes heavy metals and organic solvents that can pose health risks when they come into contact with food.

Health Effects of Newspaper Ink

The use of newspaper ink in food packaging raises significant health concerns. The ink contains various bioactive materials with known negative health properties. Some of the key concerns include:

Aromatic Hydrocarbons: Newspaper ink contains aromatic hydrocarbons, such as benzo(a)pyrene, which is a known carcinogen. Exposure to these compounds can lead to lung cancer and other health issues.

Naphthylamine: Naphthylamine is another component of newspaper ink associated with cancer, particularly bladder cancer.

Ink Solvents: The solvents used in ink formulations, such as di-isobutyl phthalate, ethanol, and dimethyl sulfoxide, can have adverse effects on health, including neurotoxicity, cardiovascular diseases, and kidney problems.

Heavy Metals: Some ink pigments may contain heavy metals like cadmium, mercury, lead, and chromium, which can pose health risks when ingested or inhaled over an extended period.

AhR Agonists: Newspaper ink may also contain agonists for the Ah receptor, a transcription factor that can affect various biological and toxicological processes.

Prolonged exposure to AhR agonists can lead to a range of health problems.
Food in contact with news – or magazine- paper, hot and oily, will definitely pickup chemicals often have found in printing papers [ Tris(2,4-di-tert-butylphenyl) phosphate (AO168O), 2,6-di-tert-butyl-4-methylphenol (BHT), bisphenol A (BPA), and benzophenone (BP), etc]. They're harming us; they can cause diseases like reproductive issues, nerve problems, and even cancer.

Synthetic colors, recognized as potent carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, have been implicated as risk factors in a range of diseases, including reproductive, neural, and diabetes, as well as various types of cancers.

These harmful substances have also extended their impact to wildlife and species within the food chain by disrupting the endocrine system. 


Regulatory Measures
To mitigate the health risks associated with using newspaper ink in food packaging, regulatory measures have been introduced in various regions.

For example, The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued advisories against using newspapers for wrapping or serving food due to the harmful effects of printing ink.

Similar measures have been taken in regions like Maharashtra, India, where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has directed food vendors not to use newspapers to wrap or serve food items. These measures aim to create awareness about the risks of using newspapers for food packaging and encourage safer alternatives.

Alternatives to Newspaper Ink in Food Packaging

In response to the environmental and health concerns related to newspaper ink, many businesses and regulatory bodies are exploring alternative packaging materials.

Various materials are available for food packaging, ranging from stainless steel to bamboo. These alternatives are gaining popularity as they offer safer and more sustainable options for packaging food products.


Contaminating food with newspaper ink is a practice that poses significant health risks. The ink used in newspapers contains various chemicals and substances, including aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals, which can have detrimental effects on human health.

Regulatory measures and advisories have been introduced to discourage the use of newspapers for food packaging, and alternative materials are being explored to provide safer and more sustainable options.

It is essential for individuals and businesses to be aware of the potential health implications and to adopt safer food packaging practices to protect public health and well-being. 


*Dr Anirban Ghosh may be contacted at