The unethical or illegitimate promotion of questionable products including junk food, often using popular personalities, has become a major problem for Third World Countries battling against various forms of neocolonialism by the West.
One of the latest cases involved Bollywood star and Sri Lankan beauty queen Jacqueline Fernandez. In the afterglow of her latest Bollywood blockbuster ‘Kick’ where she plays the lead role with another superstar Salman Khan, reports say Jacqueline was offered as much as Rs.5 million a week to promote some junk food. The actress did not have to do a shoot and the contract only required her to tweet and write about the brand on digital platforms.
Jacqueline, who often insists on healthy foods to maintain her fitness and figure, gave some thought to the lucrative offer but then rejected it apparently because she believed it was unethical for her to promote this junk food which was not good for the people.
Health and food safety analysts have hailed Jackie for taking a strong stand to promote fair play and social justice though some critics ask why she is selling five-star egg hoppers for Rs.200 each at a recently opened upmarket shopping and restaurant complex in Colombo.
People-friendly nutritionists and health action analysts are also raising questions as to why some prominent Sri Lankan personalities in sports and entertainment are promoting questionable items while there is substantial scientific evidence that they may not be good for health. When such items are promoted as good food for champions, children especially could be misled to insist their parents should buy homemade or imported junk for them.
Another major issue is the growing trend where children are being used or abused to promote certain products including detergents or insurance policies about which these innocent children know little or nothing. Such sophisticated high-tech misuse if not abuse of children is prohibited in some Western countries but in Third World countries like Sri Lanka, there is little monitoring in a culture of impunity.
Members of the Non-violence Movement, appearing on a television show on Wednesday night also spoke about ethical issues in the promotion of certain brands of imported milk powder. They pointed out that Sri Lanka’s dairy farmers were able to get about six litres of milk from a cow each day. But in certain countries from where Sri Lanka imports most of its powdered milk, more than 50 litres of milk are known to be obtained each day from a cow, apparently through the excessive use of some growth hormones. What side-effects these growth hormones would have on the cows, their milk and the processed milk is not known but people-friendly nutritionists say the possibility of some serious side-effects cannot be ruled out.
The Ministry of Economic Development has repeatedly announced big plans with interest-free loans from state banks to revive the local dairy milk industry which was virtually destroyed by transnational corporations after the gloablised, capitalist market economic system was enforced. But even for these fresh milk revival projects the Ministry wants to import thousands of cows from countries where cows are known to be heavily infused with unnatural growth hormones. Health action analysts say the better option would be to develop small cooperative dairy farms and agriculture experts insist that Sri Lanka has enough milking cows to revive the dairy farming industry. This will also need to be done with restrictions and a gradual ban on cattle slaughter so that we will not only have enough fresh milk but our people will be saved from the dangers of eating what the Non-violence Movement validly refers to as ‘mala kunu.’ Like a widely promoted monosodium glutamate additive which has a 10-year expiry date which means it will be in and affect our bodies for at least 10 years, the ‘mala kunu’ also would have similar harmful effects.