Why Kulhad for Chai is Better Than Styrofoam Cups at Rail Stations
In 2004, Lalu Prasad had introduced kulhads to give passengers a taste of eco-friendly cups over styrofoam.
Having been elbowed out by the more utilitarian plastic and paper cups over the years at railway stations, 'kulhads' are all set to make a comeback at catering units. They were first introduced by former railway minister Lalu Prasad 15 years ago.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has instructed caterers at Varanasi and Rae Bareli stations to use terracotta-made 'kulhads', glasses and plates, according to the Northern Railway and the North Eastern Railway.
In 2004, then rail minister Lalu Prasad had introduced 'kulhads' to boost the dying pottery industry and also give passengers a taste of eco-friendly cups. He had made it clear that hot beverages should be served only in 'kulhads'. Other than providing a huge market for local potters, the move is significant because of its health aspects.
Clay for these cups is usually dug from a river. Following this, they are sculpted in the shape of a cup which are then baked on open fire.
Benefits of Using Earthen Cups
Dr Rajesh Upadhyay, Director - Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Max Hospital, New Delhi draws attention to the benefits of consuming food in terracotta or earthen utensils.
The first thing to note here is that they are absolutely natural and they have been tried and tested for ages. When something, let’s water, is left in an earthen pot for a long time, the nutrients and minerals already present in the clay diffuse in it and enrich the water.Dr Rajesh Upadhyay
The doctor points out the presence of minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium which would enrich the food item kept in an earthen pot.
Next, he says, clay is alkaline. Since there is already acid in the stomach, this alkalinity aids digestion. These benefits won’t be to the same extent as food items kept in an earthen jar for longer periods of time, yet there would be some if you are drinking tea or coffee in it.
Along with their eco-friendliness and health benefits, the cups enrich the taste of the beverage. The alkaline clay also reacts with the acid content of the beverage, neutralising, balancing and therefore making it healthier, according to this report.
Impurities in Clay?
When the kulhads had previously been introduced by the railways, they did not get much traction from both passengers and vendors who complained about the poor quality of earthen cups. There is also not much to ensure the purity of the clay which can end up with residual lead or cadmium which can contaminate food.
Dr Upadhyay, however, points out that since the clay is heated at such high temperatures, there is hardly any fear of bacterial contamination. The water or the food item would have to be highly contaminated, otherwise the chances of infection are very low.
Styrofoam is Linked to Cancer, Stay Away From It
Dr Upadhyay emphasises how harmful styrofoam or plastic cups are that are otherwise used at railway stations. The international standard demands that we find an alternative for them, he points out. In that aspect, replacing them with kulhads is a great move.
Styrene is a component which is used a lot in making of styrofoam or plastic cups. It is a classified carcinogen and is linked to several types of cancers.Dr Rajesh Upadhyay
He adds that exposure to styrene in case of people who work with it is also known to causes respiratory diseases, lung ulcers, headache and dizziness, among others. Consequently, the kulhad is a great alternative in many ways and has the green light from health experts.
(With inputs from PTI.)
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