Magnesium carbonate is prohibited under the food safety regulations. It is an anti-caking agent which increases the risk of cancer Credit: Representational Image

Guwahati: As many as 43 brands of paan masala, including Rajnigandha, Shikhar, Signature, Bimal and Kamala Pasand, among others, contain cancer-causing agents, admitted the office of the commissioner of food safety in Assam.

According to commissioner of food safety M Goswami, samples of altogether 43 brands of paan masala were collected and all tested positive for cancer-stimulating chemical magnesium carbonate (MgCO3). The statement was made in an affidavit submitted in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a local resident, Jitul Deka.

Deka asserted in the petition that magnesium carbonate, which is prohibited under the food safety regulations, is an anti-caking agent which increases the risk of cancer.

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Deka further mentioned in the PIL that scientific research denotes consumption of paan masala containing MgCO3 can cause acute hyper magnesia and cardiac arrest in addition to cancer.

The petitioner also argued that the state government has been clearly violating section 26 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 as well as 2.3.4 of the of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation, 2011 for granting permission to manufacture, store, distribute, transport, display and sell paan masala containing magnesium carbonate.

The PIL cited the steps taken by state governments in other parts of India such as Bihar, Rajasthan and Maharashtra who all have prohibited manufacture, store, transport, display, distribute or sell gutkha, paan masala, etc, keeping in mind the health hazards that can be cause upon consumption of items containing magnesium carbonate.

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In Bihar, the state government has banned 15 brands of paan masala containing magnesium carbonate in them since August 2019.

Similarly, the Rajasthan government announced a ban on paan masala containing magnesium carbonate, nicotine, tobacco, mineral oil and flavoured ‘supari’ in the state in September last year.

Many states in India such as Gujarat, Delhi, Jharkhand, Haryana, Karnataka have imposed restrictions on the manufacturing, sale and distribution of paan masala containing nicotine and other substances such as magnesium carbonate.

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