TAIWAN – A ruling Kuomintang legislator has called for a ban on the use of styrofoam instant noodle bowls in Taiwan over health safety concerns.
KMT lawmaker Yang Chiung Ying said that most disposable instant noodle bowls in Taiwan still use styrofoam and while such packaging can hold hot beverages and food of temperatures exceeding 70°C, the containers can also release styrene into the food. Long-term ingestion of the carcinogenic substance can be harmful to human health.
Noting that there are other feasible options besides styrofoam packaging, Yang also said that China’s ban in 2002 on the use of styrofoam containers and tableware products has pushed many Chinese manufacturers to use paper and other alternatives instead.
For example, popular Taiwanese instant noodle brand Master Kong uses polypropylene for products sold in China, while at the same time using styrofoam for products in Taiwan.
As the cost of producing a paper-based instant noodle bowl is only NT$0.45 higher than that of a styrofoam bowl, Yang said price is and should not be a factor in banning the substance.
No need for styrofoam ban
In response to Yang’s calls for a styrofoam ban, the Department of Health (DOH)’s Food and Drug Administration says packaging sanitation standards are already in place in Taiwan, and hence there is no need for a ban on styrofoam instant noodle bowls.
DOh official Cheng Wei Chih said the department carried out tests on containers made of polystyrene in 2012 to ensure public health safety, and only one item was found to be substandard and ordered off store shelves.
Cheng acknowledged though that the public could still have concerns, and said that DOH will discuss with scholars and experts to discuss ways to reduce the use of styrofoam.
Meanwhile, Environment and Food Chief Lily Yam Kwan Puiying said styrofoam containers pose no environmental risk.
“Although Styrofoam is not biodegradable, it is acceptable in terms of environmental protection, the manufacturing process and disposal when there is no suitable alternative available in the market,” she said.
“I am not here defending styrofoam but the point I want to make is facts are not what we think when talking about environmental protection.”
“Styrofoam currently makes up only about 0.5% of landfill waste. Our primary aim is to encourage waste reduction,” Yam added.