The Daily Mirror, in several editorials during the past few years, has been urging the Rajapaksa regime to implement effective and wide-ranging measures to revive the fresh milk industry in Sri Lanka as a long-term solution to the problems and questions over imported powdered milk and other milk products. We pointed out that the revival of Sri Lanka’s dairy milk industry would have a multitude of benefits. The Sri Lankan people would be able to drink fresh cow’s milk which nutritionists say is far more nourishing than powdered and processed milk from New Zealand, Australia or any other country. In addition, such a move would give a boost, including a better income for Sri Lanka’s farmers, thousands of whom are in the mud-holes of poverty now because their paddy and other crops do not have a good market, and many fields have been devastated by regular droughts or floods. In overall economic terms, the cash-trapped Government could save hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign exchange by reducing or stopping the import of powdered milk. If all goes well, we would become a healthier Sri Lanka, and thereby, a wealthier Sri Lanka.
Now, after remaining silent for far too long and for varied reasons, the 15,000-strong Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) is responding positively to what has developed into a Milkgate. GMOA President, Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya, himself a paediatrician and child neurologist, says the doctors are submitting eight crucial proposals regarding food safety and public health to the President. The doctors hope these will be implemented urgently for the common good of the people.
The first and main proposal of the GMOA is for the Government to promote the production of fresh liquid milk instead of importing powdered milk. The GMOA is requesting that village-level farmers be encouraged to produce more milk. They should be given credit facilities to buy more milch cows and fodder and farmers’ societies at village level should also be encouraged to produce liquid milk.
The GMOA’s second proposal is for the implementation of tough regulations on food safety. It says the Health Ministry should have state-of–the-art laboratory facilities to test any kind of food entering the market. At the moment, the Ministry does not have such lab facilities.
The good doctors need to be reminded that more than the Health Ministry, it is the Ministry of Science and Technology that has a key role to play in testing the quality and safety of food, especially imported items because it is widely known that trans-national food companies are dumping shiploads of ultra-processed garbage here. Not only the elite, but even middle-class people are relishing this rubbish because of unethical promotion. This may be one of the reasons why more people are falling sick more often, with millions known to be suffering from high cholesterol or diabetes, and 11% of the diabetes patients are known to be non-responding to the insulin treatment.
"GMOA is requesting that village-level farmers be encouraged to produce more milk by giving them credit facilities to buy more milch cows"
Another reason why the Science and Technology Ministry, through the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI), should enforce the food safety regulations has been given by the Health Minister himself. Minister Maithripala Sirisena, addressing a meeting held recently at the Kurunegala nurses training school, said he had to do his work while being surrounded by multi-national milk food companies, drug companies, tobacco companies and some corrupt officials in his ministry. He said the multi-national companies were interested mainly in profit making or super-profit making, while some of their products were hazardous. Mr. Sirisena said the Government wanted to save the people from the multi-national companies, which most people know are involved in nothing less than economic neo-colonialism. But he claimed the Government could not serve or save the people from these companies, because some officials in his ministry are taking big bribes from them. What a shame, what a sham! The Health Ministry is so corrupt that instead of ensuring good health, it is leaving room for sickness and death.
The final proposal of the GMOA is that the promotion of breast milk substitutes be stopped, because there is no substitute for mother’s milk. Sincere and people-friendly nutritionists have known and promoted this for decades. But most medical doctors were silent, and some even promoted alleged nutritional supplements and therapeutic high-protein products. Thankfully the GMOA has now come out openly in favour of breast milk as the solid foundation for the growth of healthier children who will be productive citizens of Sri Lanka.