Farmers use fertilizers, chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, weedicides and insecticides to to increase production. This affects the health of people in the long run through food chain cycle and food pyramid.
By Jayanta Sharangthem
Health is above wealth because we can’t enjoy wealth if we are not in good health. There is saying that ‘Good health is a crown worn by the healthy that only the ill can see’. The value of good health knows to the one who frequently visits hospital due to his/her sickness. We all know that engine fails to run when its oil injected is impure. We are what we eat and life comes through the food we eat. When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use and when diet is correct, medicine is of no need. You rich people should not consume foods like highly processed items like meat, fish or liquor whatever you like otherwise you will be made to learn that ‘the rich have medicines while poor have health’. The food we eat is meant to nourish our body but now a day, it is often the cause of many diseases on our body. This is because our foods are highly processed, highly treated with chemicals, pesticides, insecticides, preservatives, hormones and toxic materials thereby stripping of the basic nutrients. Using pesticides, heavy metals, injecting chemicals for faster growth, artificial colouring for turning ‘green’ and ‘fresh looking’ become a common phenomenon in our society.
Recently there surfaced many food poisoning cases across the state Manipur after eating mushroom, sabot (luffa), fermented fish or chemical injected lotus. Moreover, our food markets are in poor garbage and poor hygienic conditions. These attract flies and spread diseases among us. Most of the vegetables, fruits, fishes, meat and fermented items which are of daily consumption contain chemicals, pesticides, weedicides, hormones, colouring/coating agents. The residues from these chemicals don’t go off even after thorough washing with running water. This is the serious problem of the day. Pesticides and chemicals usage increases tremendously to meet the over growing population on the other hand. Actually artificial ripening agents, hormones and synthetic chemicals are being used by the sellers to attract the consumers thereby getting more profit. The lush and leafy green vegetables contain chemicals, dynes, hormones, and insecticides etc. that lead to serious health problems. These chemicals cause health hazards like food poisoning, diarrhoea, vomiting, loose motion, fever, weight gain, infertility, less sperm count in males, increased risk of developing high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, kidney and neuro problems and even speed up the aging process of human too. So, it is the high time to get careful before it is too late while consuming fruits, vegetables, meat and preservative foods.
The concerned state food department should take necessary steps in this regard in order to curb the use of harmful chemicals in our daily food items as consuming raw fruits and vegetables has become a paradox. There is no doubt that consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, sometimes eaten raw, is important for a balanced and nutritious diet. However, there is also risk of food borne diseases as they are contaminated with pathogens, bacteria, dust, sand etc. caused due to improper handling in road side and poor storage conditions. Often we come across street vendors covering vegetables, fruits, fishes with wet clothes that might not be clean and the water used on it might not be potable. Half of the above said problems, according to me I will say, is due to the poor testing and weak checking capacities of the department, informal food supply chains, little oversight of traders and fishermen and weak government response on foods sellers. Therefore, if we all think that there is no time for our health, it will result in no health no life for our time tomorrow.
Mankind abuses science. Toxic chemicals are used to make veggies look ‘fresh’. There are so many types of chemical agents used in vegetables and fruits now a day. First of all, the street sellers use artificial ripening agents like calcium carbide which reacts with moisture to form acetylene that mimics the natural ripener, ethylene. They even inject hormone like oxytocin for bigger size, look green and attractive. Secondly they use coating/colouring agents like wax, flavour/dyes like malachite green, rhodamine B, copper sulphate( dipped in copper sulphate solution to give the veggies a fresh green look) and diphenylamine(DPA to prevent the postharvest deterioration of apples, pears and veggies, namely from superficial scald. Its anti-scald activity is directly related to antioxidant properties which protect the horticultural products from oxidation during storage.) It means DPA is used to prevent the moisture present in fruits and vegetables avoiding from being dried so that they look fresh and attractive for longer period of time even after the vegetables are transported in a far off distances or during cold storage. Wax is a petroleum product while DPA reacts with nitrogen to form nitrosamine which is a suspected carcinogen (cancer causing). Since children love good brightly coloured foods/sweet, sellers put colour/dyes on food and due to this, condition becomes critical if fruits and vegetables are eaten raw without properly being washed. Thirdly the farmers use fertilizers, chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, weedicides and insecticides to the crops they planted to increase production, after all, which affects the health problem in the long run through food chain cycle and food pyramid. These chemicals, over and above putting negative health risk factor, give a big burden on natural ecosystem and environmental animal-plant relationship too. So, there comes an urgent reform/concept regarding food production in agricultural sectors for a more sustainable and ecological approach which is safer for mankind and environment as both. In the fourth category, the street vendors use artificial sweeteners, chemicals and preservatives like formalin in fish, preservatives in bottle juices and chips. Since fish is a highly decomposable/ perishable commodity, if it is not maintained at low temperature ( nearly 5 degree Celsius ), it gets spoiled. To avoid this, fish sellers use formalin, a chemical which is used to preserve dead bodies in morgues to avoid from being decomposed. Formalin even increases fish shelf life. But formalin may cause nausea, coughing, burning sensation of eyes, nose and throat in the short time and cancer if consume for a long time. So, let food be the medicine otherwise the medicine be our food in future.
On other side, we are daily consuming the meat specially the chicken (Boiler) and pig meat. Boilers are feeding with harmful chemicals or inject antibiotics and growth hormones so that they grow faster and gain body weight. When we consume this meat regularly, it may cause health hazards like obesity, infertility, gain body weight, BP and other body problems. Also we, the Manipuri, are good consumer of fish. Almost it may say, we eat fermented or fresh fish daily. But the highly alarming is the widely increased usage of many chemicals, urea and growth hormones by farmers in fish farming . Since they use chemicals, we frequently come across decomposing fishes rapidly after dead. We can easily diagnose what diseases we have from the food that we eat daily. So, tell me what you eat, I will tell you what you are.
Growing youths and school children too consume preservative sweets and food items like chips, maggi, noodles, artificial added sugar baked foods, canned meat and packed juice bottles and drinks selling in the local shops. Consuming frequently these items cause stomach problems in children. Even maximum kitchen items including oils are highly processed. Bisphenol A is a chemical that are found in the plastic container of many common foods and beverages and even in the lining of metal like canned fishes. This chemical may cause hormone malfunction, breast and prostate cancer risk sometimes.
Now a day, in every household, people use many plastic items including plastic water container like sintex (making water more warm when store) . These plastic items will surely harm our health in the long run. We too buy water which is not hygienic and which is not natural as before. At the same time, we don’t get basic nutrients from the water as well. Again, we consume rice which had been sown with fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides and chemicals on the paddy field. With the development of living standard as it says, rather than charcoal ash as before, all kitchen items like utensils, plate, cups, frying pan, bowl, pressure cooker and others, after eating, are being washed with detergents which may cause serious health problems in future. We are using gas stove instead of burning woods shifting everything from natural life style to artificial/synthetic life style. Using microwave oven is dangerous to health as per researcher, since the wave or ray from the microwave oven breaks natural proteins, food molecules and nutrients making food radioactive. With the result of these circumstances, life becomes easy but life span becomes short day by day.
It means, in this modern days, our health is being attacked from all sides. Frankly we are really eating chemicals. That is why, life span of human being decreases generation after generation. If doubt you can compare this generation with your great grandmother and grandfather. In their time, there were no money no phone but good health long life. On the other side, frequently we hear that there comes artificial egg and synthetic plastics rice exporting from neighbouring countries like china. Since several local markets belong to the unorganised sector, the vendors are unaware of the food safety risk. Their knowledge of hygiene is equally poor. Therefore, there is a need for training vendors through awareness and campaigns. Health and food inspectors along with social organisations can help a lot to ensure food safety in local markets. If they suspect that the food is contaminated, they can send samples to food testing laboratories or even lodge a complaint to the local municipality or civil authorities or even to the FSSAI.
Before consuming or storing fruits, vegetables and meat, make sure we do the following easy home tips/methods to minimize to some extent. We should at least clean fruits and vegetables well with running water before cutting, storing or eating. We must try not to eat anything which is not in its seasonal. Again we should switch local fruits and vegetables instead of foreign foods thereby helping local economy too. It is better to peel off the skin of the fruits and vegetables before eating so that it removes the chemical residues residing in the outer layer like wax coating, colour and toxic materials. For maximum neutralization of the chemicals used in veggies, one has to wash the fruits and vegetables in baking soda or salt or vinegar solution thoroughly. It is important that we, as a consumer, should carefully check the fruits, vegetables and meat before purchasing them. It is advisable to avoid buying them which are from unsafe sources, unclean places as chances of contamination increases in such conditions and we should avoid such that are damaged, overripe, unpleasant odour, swelling or insect infested green leafy vegetables.
Last but not the least, I would like to say that health is happiness and happiness is homemade. Good food is good mood and when health is good everything is good. Sometimes money is nothing to a sick person that visits hospital daily. To eat is a necessary, but to eat intelligently is an art. Be a smart consumer to be a happy eating.
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])