Beware of fake banana leaf meals

Athi Shankar
 | April 18, 2012 

CAP says paper leaves contain chemicals and deprive consumers of the benefits of the real thing.


GEORGE TOWN: Hungry enough for a full-blown banana leaf lunch? Well, just make sure you go for the real stuff or you might end up with something more serious than a curry-induced heartburn.

The Consumer Association of Penang has warned consumers that the artificial banana leaf that some restaurants use is an unhealthy substitute for the real thing.

Many restaurants, citing a shortage of banana leaves, have been serving meals on green paper lined with plastic.

According to CAP president SM Mohamad Idris, the plastic contains chemicals that could ooze into the food, especially if it is hot, as a banana leaf meal is meant to be.

Furthermore, he told a press conference today, the green in the paper meant that it had been dyed.

He also noted the rough finish of the paper, which he said indicated it was made from recycled newspapers, meaning there would be other inks in the mix.

“If you eat on the paper banana leaf, it’s akin to consuming poison.”

In a demonstration for the benefit of the reporters present, he soaked a fake banana leaf in water and pointed to a pulp that was released. He said a test would show that the pulp was laced with chemicals.

He dismissed restaurateurs’ plea of banana leaf shortage as a lame excuse for profiteering. “Paper banana leaves are cheaper,” he said, “but they definitely defeat the meaning and purpose of banana leaf meals.”

He called on consumers not to compromise on the benefits of natural banana leaf meals.

Natural banana leaf contains large amounts of polyphenols, like green tea. It releases a pleasant aroma when it comes into contact with hot food. It has herbal properties and the mucilage it contains is soothing to the digestive system, besides being a good cure for ulcers and working positively on the kidneys.

Furthermore, the surface of the leaf has anti-bacterial properties.

“Banana leaf is natural and chemical free, disposable and degrades in nature easily,” Idris said. “It does not cause pollution like plastics.”

He called on the Domestic Trade and Consumers Affairs Ministry to use the Trade Descriptions Act against restaurants serving meals on fake banana leaves.

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