Food fascism violates our right to food and nutrition, state eminent citizens

Food fascism violates our right to food and nutrition, state eminent citizens

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published Published on May 5, 2022   modified Modified on May 5, 2022

-Statement issued by Concerned Citizens, Doctors, Nutritionists, Parents, Advocates and Researchers dated 5th May, 2022

Amidst growing attacks on meat sellers and restaurant owners who sell non-vegetarian food, a statement has been issued by concerned citizens, and civil society groups. The statement depicts how such attacks or bans against non-vegetarian food would impact the right to food as well as the nutritional status of the disadvantaged sections of the society and the undernourished people. 

It is worth looking at the following data points in the statement related to the need for animal protein rich diets (with respect towards vegetarians whose food preferences differ):

According to the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) 2016-18 data, among children aged 6 to 23 months, only 42 percent were fed the minimum number of times per day for their age, 21 percent were fed an adequately diverse diet containing four or more food groups, and just 6.4 percent received a minimum acceptable diet.

Among children aged 2 to 4 years, while 96 percent consumed grains, roots and tubers and 62 percent consumed dairy products, only 5 percent consumed vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables the previous day, 16 percent had consumed eggs, and 1 percent had consumed flesh foods. Among adolescents, only 35 percent consumed eggs, and 36 percent consumed fish, chicken or meat. 

As per CNNS, 35 percent of Indian children aged 0-4 years are stunted and 33 percent are underweight, with higher figures (around 40 percent) for states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Children in the poorest wealth quintile are far more likely to be stunted (49 percent), compared with those in the richest quintile (19 percent), and about twice as likely to be underweight. Similarly, children from the scheduled tribes have high rates of underweight (42 percent) compared with scheduled castes (36 percent), other backward classes (33 percent), and other groups (27 percent).

Anemia is at least a mild public health problem for school-age children 5–9 years in all states except for Kerala, and a moderate or severe public health problem among preschoolers in 27 states. Anemia in children can lead to impaired cognitive development, poor physical growth, increased morbidity and decreased work productivity in adulthood (FAO/WHO, 2005).

Iron, vitamin A, iodine, zinc, folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin D are generally considered essential in childhood and adolescence, but there is high deficiency of all these nutrients among Indian children. Vitamin A deficiency, for instance, is estimated at 18 percent for pre-school children aged 1–4 years, 22 percent among school-age children aged 5–9 years and 16 percent among adolescents aged 10–19 years. Vitamin D, essential for bone health, was found deficient in 14 percent, 18 percent and 24 percent of these respective age groups. Zinc deficiency, associated with growth retardation, loss of appetite and impaired immune function, affects 19 percent, 17 percent and 32 percent respectively.  

According to a recent Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report, South Asia has the lowest per capita availability of meat (19g/day) and India is the lowest in any country (10g/day). The report recommends that campaigns should encourage increased consumption of chicken liver, ruminant liver, ruminant meat for children 6-23 months. It also says that green leafy vegetables are moderately available, that fish is consumed only in certain areas, and that the consumption and production of eggs should be increased.

Contrary to the common characterisation of India as a vegetarian country, it has a rich tradition of meat diets and culinary practices. Only 20 percent Indians self-identify as vegetarians and this includes animal source foods (ASF) such as milk and dairy. Even eating beef is the cultural practice of a significant number of Indians (at least 15 percent or about 180 million people), including most Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Christians as well as some Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Beef is one of the cheapest nutrient dense foods: 100 gm of lean beef provides 54 percent of the daily protein requirement, and the nutrients are digestible and well absorbed. 

Those who have signed the statement include Dr. Amar Jesani, Ravi Duggal, Jean Drèze, and others.

Kindly click here to access the statement (dated 5th May, 2022) issued by concerned citizens and civil society groups.


Image Source: World Health Organization

Statement issued by Concerned Citizens, Doctors, Nutritionists, Parents, Advocates and Researchers dated 5th May, 2022

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