A Healthy Lanka: Let the cow open the gate
The National Unity Government, in one of the most important moves of its sustainable development programme, has launched a three year mission for Sri Lanka to grow its own nutritious food without any “Wasa Wisa” from agro-chemicals or other sources.
A vital aspect of this national food programme is the revival of our once thriving dairy milk industry. Rural Economic Affairs Minister P. Harrison, speaking at a Milco factory ceremony on Thursday said Japan was giving substantial aid for the revival of the fresh milk industry. The Minister said the government hoped to provide a bottle of nourishing fresh milk to school children from next year.
Until 1977, when Sri Lanka swallowed wholesale the globalised capitalist market economic policies, fresh milk was made available to most homes while the National Milk Board sales centres were popular spots at many a junction. They sold bottles of vanilla, chocolate and plain milk which were popular among school children.
But a transnational powdered milk company, described by some international people friendly nutritionist as a baby killer, uses subtle methods to virtually milk dry Sri Lanka’s dairy milk industry.
Worldwide most people friendly nutritionists say that powdered milk is not even half as nourishing as fresh milk. Powdered milk giants are known to boil the fresh milk at several hundred degrees centigrade, then it is powdered, artificial sweeteners, flavour enhancing substances and preservatives are added with questions being raised as to the safety of some of these.
Gradually with powerful though sometimes unethical marketing methods, the powdered milk giants captured the Sri Lankan market. Since packets of powdered milk are easy to preserve, more Sri Lankans prefer to buy them rather than facing the difficulty of refrigeration for fresh milk. But the easy way is often not the best way because fresh milk is known to be incomparably better than any brand of powdered milk, whatever the marketing tactics adopted. For instance there is a particular brand of powdered milk being marketed as a wonder nutritional supplement especially for those who are suffering from severe ailments and cannot eat. The price of this tin has gone to more than four figures. But in the United States, for instance the sale of this particular brand as a wonder nutritional supplement is banned. So some Sri Lankans are known to come all the way from the US, buy two boxes of this so-called wonder milk and take it for a patient in the US.
In addition to the nutritional negatives, Sri Lanka is spending hundreds of millions of dollars for the import of powdered milk. The Government Medical Officers Association comprising about 20,000 doctors has been strongly campaigning for the revival of our dairy milk industry with the use of modern technology for effective refrigeration and marketing. A GMOA spokesman, speaking on a popular television talk show last Wednesday, repeated the assurance that the doctors’ union does not accept any sponsorship offers from drug companies or powdered milk companies.* We hope Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons also would follow this good example so that there would be no conflict of interest.
During our fresh milk days we remember the popular advertising song, “Drink a pint of milk a day, you’ll receive good health that way. Drink more fresh milk, it does you good.” The government needs to commit itself sincerely to the revival of the dairy milk industry for Sri Lanka to become a healthier nation and also to save hundreds of millions of dollars which could be used for essential purposes. Nutrition friendly citizens also need to co-operate by drinking more fresh milk and especially encouraging our children to do so, though it may not be as tasty as powdered milk. If the choice is between taste and nutrition then what we must do is clear.