Despite the marvels of modern medicine including the latest 3-D nano technology, more people are falling sick more often -- public hospitals are overcrowded and private hospitals overcharging -- while more medical specialists are unable to diagnose some of the ailments of unknown origin. One of the main reasons for this calamity was spotlighted with graphic and grave details at the Sri Lanka Medico-legal Society’s annual scientific sessions at the SLFI auditorium last Saturday.
The theme of the sessions was, “Are we poisoning our children?” The facts and figures given by some eminent speakers prompted the chairperson to quip whether the members and guests including the Chief Guest Attorney General Palitha Fernnado might be afraid to eat the prepared lunch but he assured there were no sausages which many nutritionists describe as ‘processed rubbish’.
The panel included Dr. Dhammika Seneviratnre, the Senior Assistant Government Analyst in charge of the food safety unit; Dr. Damayanthi Perera, one of Sri Lanka’s highest qualified people-friendly nutritionists and Dr. Ruwan Wijeyamuni, Colombo’s newly appointed Chief Medical Officer of Health.
They revealed some shocking figures. As many as 1,200 chemical additives, including preservatives, flavour-enhancing chemicals, artificial sweeteners and chemical substances for colouring or to make the food items more attractive, are being used in most of the imported and local food we eat. Children were included in the theme because most of these items could have the worst effect on children under three. With some children known to be choking in their own fat and others suffering from various ailments including obesity, we are on the verge of a crisis which had already hit the West where in many cases the children are dying before the parents. This is largely due to environmental pollution, food pollution and a lifestyle change where most people have got so addicted to the push-button technology that they have little or no time for physical exercise.
Dr. Seneviratne said the Department had given numbers on the labels of the food items where chemical additives were used. For instance she gave the number of a widely used food additive where monosodium glutamate is used.
Dr. Wijemuni’s disclosures were more disturbing. He said he and other medical officers had recently conducted inspections on scores of eateries and small hotels in Colombo. What they found in the kitchens, storage rooms, make-shift toilets and small backyards was appalling. Some of these did not have even running tap water but used partly muddy water from tube wells. Insects and even frogs were found in rice, vegetables and other stored items while the hygienic conditions were ideal for germs since there was not enough water for proper washing. Dr. Wijemuni said if people were foolishly interested in eating chemical bombs they could eat a ‘koththu roti’. The Chief MOH said in some samples of popular ‘biriyani’, they found some chemical colouring apparently to make it more attractive.
Dr. Damayanthi Perera who spoke of globalisation, the harmful effects of unrestrained free trade, consumer rights and the need for professionals to maintain ethical standards said the world economy was being manipulated not so much by the United States or the European Union but by about 500 powerful transnational corporations. She also said some rich fools in these corporations thought they were so smart, they were even taking the place of cows and producing cow’s milk which was really fake milk. Tragically this fake milk was being given mainly to our children and she appealed to mothers especially not to allow this knowingly or unknowingly.
What these and other eminent personalities said at the scientific sessions is not just vitally important but more so a matter of life or death for our innocent children. Therefore in the coming days and weeks the Daily Mirror hopes to give more information to our readers on how to get back to a good nutritious diet and lifestyle before it is too late and we and our children end up in the junk heaps of history.
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