With the increasing pace of life and the corresponding increase in social as well as work pressures, food habits of the people around the world have taken a hit for the worse. The most glaring evidence of this unfortunate changing trend is the gradual increase in the number of fast-food joints and ready-to-eat snack bars as well as local kiosks catering to the public with mostly fried stuffs to satiate the hunger instantaneously. Food that can be had on the go is being preferred over those which are healthy and wholesome but takes time to prepare. However, there is also an increasing awareness amongst the conscious and connected public cutting across age groups and professions regarding the need to inculcate a good dietary habit in order to combat the increasing stress and strains of our daily life. The general consensus amongst the conscious eaters is that fruits and vegetables play a vital role in maintaining the health and even reversing the harmful effects of work and environment.
A very disturbing news doing the rounds about some unscrupulous elements using unfair and potentially harmful methods of ripening fruits in the state have however put a question mark on the safety and reliability of the food products being sold in the state. However, the incident should not come as a surprise to many as the practice has been carried on for decades without any significant restrictions or objections from the authorities. The failure of those authorized and entrusted to ensure the safety and usability of foodstuffs for so long have only emboldened these elements who would not think twice about using any and all means at their disposal, fair or foul to speed up their earnings.
The menace of food adulteration and indiscriminate use of chemicals to either speed up the ripening process or to slow down the rate of decomposition is not confined to fruits alone. If anybody would care to recollect, there had been news of farmers using chemicals to increase their products both in size as well as quantity, or even halt the process of decomposition by using formaldehyde as reported in the case of fishes being brought into the state. On the other hand, there is also the disturbing report of plastic rice and even eggs being dumped into the country. While most of the chemicals used for such purposes such as Calcium Carbide have been banned by the government, their use is still rampant. There is still the danger of misusing those chemicals which are still not banned such as Ethylene (if used within certain limits) as there is every chance of the chemical being abused in the mad rush for quicker profit.
Today, the threat of harmful chemicals contaminating our foods on a daily basis is a very real and disconcerting one, and such practice cannot be allowed to propagate and continue any longer. However, the issue is a complex one especially in a state like Manipur where the mechanism to ensure safety of food is almost absent as of now, and any means or effort to check such unfair practices requires the combined involvement of the whole community, government agencies, policymakers, fruit-sellers, farmers, scientists and consumers to find an effective solution to this matter. Meanwhile, the best and most satisfying option is to start our own fruit and vegetable garden.
- Published in Editorial