Food and drugs: The people are sick of promises - Editorial     Follow

Just as the excessive use of imported agro-chemicals is believed to have polluted ground water and caused an epidemic of kidney failure mainly among thousands of farmers in the North Central Province, people-friendly nutritionists say an excess of calcium in milk may cause kidney failure in infants. It will be a disaster if the infant has to undergo dialysis, and the child is not likely to live long. Even if the child survives, he or she is likely to be sickly, affecting the child’s education. The child is likely to be more of a burden than a blessing to the family and society, and the child’s full potential may not be brought out because the parents were misled by the unethical, unproved and unchecked promotion of so-called high-calcium products.

Baby-friendly and not company-friendly nutritionists say that breast milk is by far the best for the child for about two years, or at least one year. As we sing in that heart-warming song, ‘Lae kiri kerala, mata pew amma’, the mother’s blood is turned into milk for the child, and it has life-long results not only physically but also psychologically. There is a deep and unique love relationship between the mother and the child, largely because of the breast-feeding intimacy, and no product in the world provides a substitute for it.

"Baby-friendly and not company-friendly nutritionists say that breast milk is by far the best for the child for about two years, or at least one year"

Unfortunately, young mothers are being encouraged by profit-centred market forces to stop breast-feeding after about three months, switch to bottle feeding, often with imported processed milk, leave the child with a family member or a maid, and go to work. The young mothers are also being ill-advised by the market forces that breast-feeding for too long may not be good for them to maintain a shapely figure. Tragically, many young mothers are led out of the milky way and into the darkness of a selfish and greedy system. All this at the expense of the child. As often, it is the innocent who suffer. For instance, a lustful man and woman may indulge in adultery, but it is the innocent child who is labelled by an unjust society as a ‘bastard’. To add to the rot, that word is regularly used in the slang of a sick society.

To get back to the theme, unethical promotion of food products and its related evils need to be checked through a national policy on food and nutrition. Sad to say that the selfishness, greed and false values of the market economy have brought about a crisis where the annual sessions and other events of the Nutrition Society of Sri Lanka are sponsored by food companies in a manner that could bring about a conflict of interests. Eventually it is the people or the consumer who will suffer the harmful consequences of this. There will be no authentic monitoring of the safety, efficacy and   effectiveness of the product or the cost and the need for it. Such is the case, not only for food products but also for medical drugs because there is still no National Medicinal Drugs Policy (NMDP).

We urge the Rajapaksa regime, and especially the Health Minister to act fast and effectively in implementing the NMDP and a national policy on food and nutrition. Promises and promises have been made. The people are sick and tired of promises. They want action.

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