A drive from my home village, Chavara Thekkumbhagom in Kollam district, Kerala, India, to another city, Cochin, where I did my graduation and had settled down now, is a 3-hr journey. During such a drive recently, I gave way to more than 10 speeding-ambulances each in either way!! There were not many ambulances on the road in the yesteryears, I remembered from my student days. Nowadays, scenes of speeding-ambulances carrying patients-in-critical condition became a common feature, sadly.
Dialysis was only a topic in Biology classes while learning about kidneys. Now, there are many who have to undergo artificial dialysis once or twice in a week to continue to live, for their kidneys are no more capable of doing that function — dialysis has become a common word in day-to-day life. What happened to our health?
Poisonous vegetables resulting from rampant use of pesticides and other dangerous chemicals during both cultivation and post-harvest phase; food adulteration; over dependence on processed food; uninhibited consumption of junk food; and sedentary lifestyle are some of the reasons that are killing our health, with people reaching elderly stage much earlier and dying prematurely.
Processed food and eating from restaurants are playing a bigger damaging role. In this fast-pitched life, dining out has become an unavoidable part of our food habits. How safe are the restaurant foods? For the purpose of understanding, let us take tasty food as the one that has natural ingredients in the right mix and very-tasty food as the one which has additives for enhancing taste. My friends referred a few restaurants to me, saying that food served there were very-tasty. Yes, they were right as I had dined at those restaurants and found that the food served were very-tasty: fish curry, sambar and all the food tasted much better than they ought to have been; even the colors of the curries were more intense than the combined color-strengths of the ingredients. The question that came to my mind: what tricks these restaurants have up their sleeves that make food very-tasty compared to the tasty food that my mom used to make at our kitchen and that I ate sumptuously?
Any food that is tastier than it should naturally be is a possible sign of adulteration with colors and taste-enhancers. We should shun such restaurants that serve very-tasty food because they enhance tastes by artificial additives like Mono Sodium Glutamate, or M.S.G., a chemical that turn dangerous when used in excess. By having food from such restaurants, we are chewing down a future disease. Let us keep our eyes open and taste buds responsibly responsive to differentiate between tasty food and very-tasty food.
A few worrying statistics from my province, Kerala, India: around 50,000 people get cancer per annum in Kerala, and that means 137 people go cancerous everyday. Cochin, a district in Kerala, has a population of 3.28 million, and those who are doing artificial dialysis stand at 126,000 — in every 26 persons, one person is living on artificial dialysis. I think the situation will be more or less similar in other parts of India as well as the world.
As it stands now, food-safety check on vegetables at myriad vegetable shops is impractical. And even if samples are taken from shops, laboratory tests take a week to give results, but by that time, the vegetables would have been already digested. Is there an easy way to find out at Point of Sale, or P.O.S., pesticide levels on vegetables? To cite two parallels: pH paper is an inexpensive, quick method to decide the extent of alkalinity or acidity within a minute; similarly, chlorine paper for the level of chlorination. Is it possible to develop a.n instant, inexpensive method like these for checking pesticide levels in vegetables at P.O.S. by consumers? I think governments across the globe and organisations like Food and Agricultural Organization should invest in R&D to develop such a P.O.S. material and give them free of cost to peoples. If this happens, people will stop buying poisonous vegetables when they see “through their eyes.” No scope for corruption or political interference by vegetable-trade mafias in this simple method, besides, saving the precious lives of people as well as reducing the burden on the national exchequers on public health care.
What do we do to save ourselves from this all-pervasive, rampaging health hazards at personal level? Changing to organically cultivated vegetables, eating at homes and limiting dining outside, and sweating it out in exercises are some of the things we can do at personal level. We should take the responsibility of our health into our hands by having enough discretion on the type of food we eat.
Let’s resolve and act to keep ambulances and artificial dialyses out of our lives.