The current crisis over the import of allegedly contaminated powdered milk and other dairy products especially from New Zealand is only a small but an important part like a seed of a massive food issue, involving the import of processed rubbish and items where even traces of embalming preservatives are used.
As we have said often before, more people in Sri Lanka – from babies to elderly people in their eighties - are falling sick more often despite all the advances in modern medicine and medical technology. As a result, public and private hospitals are over–crowded like market places with unsuspecting patients being ill-treated or plundered.
In some instances at private hospitals even middle-class people have become paupers because they had to withdraw all their savings and even borrow money to pay the huge amounts charged for major surgical operations at private hospitals.
With the Government also failing in its duty by not monitoring and regulating the charges at private hospitals, there are reports that at least one well-known specialist is charging as much as Rs. 8000/= for an urgent consultation. Often the patients have to pay thousands of rupees for expensive drugs under various brand names and about Rs. 10,000/= for various tests, some of which may be non-essential.
"Hundreds of people may be silently dying due to a daily intake of poisoned or polluted food. Even post-mortem examinations may not reveal the root cause"
If we make an in-depth study of why more people are falling sick more often, one of the main reasons may be that we are eating or drinking a little poison three or four times a day and doing it every day.
Besides, the foreign garbage that is dumped here and often gobbled with relish because they are tasty and tempting like the forbidden apple, and we have some serious problems with local foods too.
The excessive use of agro-chemicals, pesticides and weedicides, has put some poison in local food items including rice and vegetables. Hundreds of people may be silently dying due to a daily intake of poisoned or polluted food. Even post-mortem examinations may not reveal the root cause which is toxic food and the verdict will be recorded as death due to natural causes.
They are far from natural. In addition to the use of agro-chemicals, trans-national companies have invaded Sri Lanka with their genetically modified foods and terminator technology. As usual, the short-term attraction or temptation is there with big and tasty fruits like bananas or papaws.
The latest move of these companies is to popularise fortified rice which sounds good and produces a rich harvest, but the long-term effect may be the destruction of an agriculture system that has been part of our civilisation and culture for thousands of years.
The long-term solution to these and other crises in the food and agriculture sector is for the Government - in consultation with qualified and people-friendly nutritionists and ayurvedic specialists – to work out an effective notional policy on food and nutrition.
People-friendly medical specialists like Professor Carlo Fonseka will tell us through their own experience that so-called therapeutic health supplements and expensive medicinal drugs are not necessary to make people healthy and the country wealthy. Essentially the solution is a good local diet and a lifestyle that includes daily exercise like brisk walking or cycling.
Now that a full-scale battle is on and those who caused harm to the health of the people have now been hauled up before the court of the people, the Government must act effectively and honestly to implement a people-friendly national policy on food, nutrition, medicinal drugs and health.