As part of the all-inclusive and eco-friendly development strategy, the National Government has also launched a mission for Sri Lanka to produce the nutritious food we need in our own country. This will be done instead of importing junk foods and processed rubbish at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign exchange.
One vital area is fresh milk, known to be highly nutritious and essential especially for pregnant mothers and children after at least one and preferably two years of breast feeding. Unfortunately, though sometimes for financial reasons some mothers are virtually forced to stop breastfeeding after about six months and go back to their jobs, often not aware that the lack of breast milk will affect the child physically, psychologically, mentally and otherwise.
Until the globalised, capitalist, market economic system was swallowed wholesale by Sri Lanka in the late 1970s, most Sri Lankans drank fresh milk which was freely and readily available through national milk booths at most junctions and the milk man or woman who visited homes daily. But a transnational powdered milk corporation, described by nutritionists as an alleged baby-killer, gradually though in a subtle way, destroyed Sri Lanka’s fresh milk industry.
With the system promoting the easy way, which is often not the best way, most people today prefer to buy the imported packets of powdered milk, which come under different brand names and often make absurd if not outrageous claims about their value. One instance is a claim that if children do not take that particular brand of powdered milk, the child’s brain would not develop fully and he or she would not be able to study well. Tragically, popular personalities including stars in the entertainment and sports fields, are used or paid huge sums to promote these brands and there appears to be no conscience problem.
As the Daily Mirror has pointed out often, fresh milk is heated to a temperature of more than 500 degrees Celsius to make powdered milk. Obviously most of the nutrition value is lost in the process. Then they are known to add flavour-enhancing substances, artificial sweeteners and preservatives, some of which may be harmful especially to pregnant mothers and children.
In some countries, which are the biggest producers of powdered milk, their own people drink only fresh milk but the packets of powdered milk are dumped in Third World countries including Sri Lanka. One family recently had an experience which cannot be dismissed as a cock-and-bull story. The family normally gave fresh milk to its two cats. One day when the fresh milk stocks ran out they gave powdered milk to the cats but the cats did not touch it. Cats are not sent to school but they appear to be wiser than educated bulls or donkeys like us.
Happily, the National Government is now launching fresh efforts to revive our fresh-milk industry. The fresh milk producing companies here are also producing good milk and marketing it well, we hope the government and the health ministry especially, will use state television at prime time to make people aware of the need to drink fresh milk again though there maybe some difficulties such as refrigeration.
Sri Lanka could then save hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable foreign exchange. More important, our people and especially the children and the next generation will be healthier, wealthier and wiser. The best places to start will be at more than ten thousand schools and we hope the plans to provide a glass of fresh milk to all schoolchildren will be carried out effectively with no TNCs or its agents being allowed to undermine or sabotage the mission. In a literal sense this will be our milk of human kindness, mainly to the next generation.