An old saying goes, “Man is what he eats”. And there is no doubt in that whatever one eats gets transformed into one’s flesh and blood. This level of assimilation and incorporation implies reflection of diet in one’s behaviour.
To illustrate, it is in dog’s nature to bark. They use barking as a form of communication, let it be in response to seeing a stranger outside the house or as a means of asking for help. This is how they express themselves. But this very expression is not innate to humans and, therefore, is considered a sign of short-temperedness and anger. It may sound absurd to many but can it, therefore, be stated that irritable and cantankerous attitude is on the rise in Pakistan since reports of the population being fed with mystery meat, like that of dogs, have begun to surface?
All joking aside, it is undoubtedly true that the food we eat affects our health which, in turn, determines our mood. Cancer, to further instantiate, is such a terrible disease in which support extended from family and friends can help the patient in recovering to only a small extent; money, children, parents and fellows can only aid, not cure. And what are the leading causes of cancer as indicated by latest medical research? One of them is chicken feed full of growth-promoting hormones. Another is cultivation of fruits and vegetables in untreated industrial and sewage water. The rest is taken care of by milk adulterated with starch, soap and formalin, salt with chalk and marble dust, chilli powder with brick powder along with many, many other foods that we consume on a daily basis, thinking that we are providing adequate nourishment to our bodies. Little do we know about the hazardous effects these adulterants are causing to our bodies.
Besides contaminated raw material and ingredients used in foods, hygiene of workers and cooks hired by different eateries and restaurants is also questionable. Overgrown dirty nails, sweating foreheads, uncovered hair and poor sanitation are common features that are time and again identified by food regulatory authorities functional in the country. The Punjab Food Authority, in this regard, is currently providing training courses to workers associated with the food industry majority of which hail from low-educated background.
However, there seems to be no end to the filth that is being fed to people, thanks to the powerful mafias running the food supply chains and many eateries. It is recurrently reported on news channels how production houses involved in manufacturing oil from animal waste and carcasses have been sealed and how gallons of contaminated milk has been wasted. But the owners keep succeeding in bribing the regulatory authorities and resuming the function of their factories, resulting in incessant production and sale of oil/ghee, spices and other foodstuff unfit for human consumption.
While the complications arising from food poisoning are multifold, the dimensions from which the problem seems to be emerging are diverse too.
Water contaminated with E. coli, faecal bacteria, heavy metals and industrial waste should be treated before being discharged into rivers and canals, but what can be expected in a country where primary-level sewage treatment is not functional in most prominent urban cities.
Adulteration of foodstuffs should be stopped, selling of mystery and expired meats should be curbed, and hygiene of workers should be checked. But no law can peter out these menaces until the culprits themselves wish to change.
Those involved in such activities either need basic education and training regarding hygiene and ethics, or they are in dire need to be subjected to the ‘eye-for-an-eye’ law. About time that our laws tighten the noose around those who for long have fed us poison contaminants.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2019.