Why is India Eating Unhealthy Food?
On the 16th of July 2013, 48 students in Bihar fell ill after eating a mid-day meal.
Hours later, 23 of them lay dead in an appalling example of the dangers posed by unhealthy food. Although the headmistress and her husband were jailed immediately, the problem is, in truth, endemic to our country. Let’s take a look at the major obstacles facing India in its bid to provide hygienic food to the second-largest population in the world.
Unhealthy Food and Insecticides in Indian Farms
In order to feed a largely vegetarian population of 1.27 billion people, farms have to yield astonishing quantities. However, vermin make that impossible. To combat them, farmers use a vast array of pesticides – many already blacklisted by the WHO. Invariably, these insecticides will lead to deaths from poisoning, as is frequent in the case of desi daroo – illicit liquor.
In fact, the WHO estimates that over 76,000 people die annually due to consumption of contaminated food in India. Yet, in the 2009-2010 period, India used over THREE THOUSAND tons of the extremely toxic insecticide phorate (among many others) in farms around the country. The only way to stop people dying in schools, farms and on the streets it to completely ban the addition of pesticides contaminating our food.
Without pressure from consumers, chemicals like monocrotophos will continue to kill young children who cannot afford any other meal.
In fact, the WHO estimates that over 76,000 people die annually due to consumption of contaminated food in India. Yet, in the 2009-2010 period, India used over THREE THOUSAND tons of the extremely toxic insecticide phorate (among many others) in farms around the country.
Toxic Food Storage Practices
For several years now, improper food storage has been attributed to the rising number of cancer and infertility cases.
While it may be common to see hot food stored in plastic bags, this practice is heavily linked to the rising number of cancer cases in India. Doctors all over the nation believe that exposing hot food in dirty and/or plastic containers to the sun may cause a number of conditions – including infertility. According to doctors in Andhra Pradesh, thousands of patients receive treatment for diseases related to the poor storage of food. Despite their warnings, it is unlikely that vendors will stop putting nutrients in plastic containers.
It must become a priority for people consuming this unhealthy food to convince producers to find an alternative way of storing food or risk having their products boycotted.
India’s poor Hygiene Habits
Although we’ve discussed two major issues concerning the dire state of our food, this one is undoubtedly the most important.
As long as cooks, maids, restaurants and ordinary citizens continue to churn out unhealthy food in unhygienic conditions, the number of people suffering from food poisoning will not decrease. The reality is that unhealthy food IS made in atrocious conditions in many parts of the nation. Street vendors are regular offenders, partly due to the nature of their business but mainly due to the fact that they take unhealthy food, prepare it in filthy environments and fail to adhere to basic food hygiene measures.
But how can they ever know if nobody points it out to them?
A 2011 programme to generate awareness about hygiene standards has recently been brought back to the fore by a Delhi High Court, but how long are we really expecting the arm of the law to be? If people buy, vendors sell. If people buy fast, vendors will sell even faster, and that means wiping the sweat off their brows and getting their hands dirty.
Unfortunately, they’ve taken that a bit too literally.
So what does our nutritional future hold?
The truth is, for India to ever have a completely salubrious food stock, massive changes will have to occur.
Although many of us feel well enough, thousands of people are dying from food-related diseases. Some are caused by toxic farming malpractices, others by manufacturers but even more by ourselves. In light of that, the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is working harder than ever to impose laws that will keep our food supplies clean. They’ll need consumers to improve their nutritional hygiene, and to inquire about food standards where they obtain it.
If we the consumers feed ourselves dirty food, why would sellers stop? And if they don’t, you can’t seriously expect producers to stop using poison in their farms. Is that something we want?
No. So we must improve our nutritional hygiene. Time to put our foot down!
He’s also a die-hard Chelsea FC fan whose interests range from dancing and music to complex philosophical paradigms involving time-travel and literally anything that gets him thinking.