AN OPEN LETTER REGARDING HEALTH ISSUES IN GAMBIA

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Agriculture Ministry

Communication & IT Department
Health & Social Welfare Ministry

Trade, Regional Integration & Employment

Dear Sir/Madam:

A healthy nation is a prosperous nation and a large degree of illness and medical costs can be ascribed to lack of knowledge and or misunderstanding on the part of the public.

Back during the era of the Persian Empire and advisor to the king that was later credited with devising the medical and periodic tables, stated, ‘A man that is Ready, Willing and Able to Act and does not act creates the Greatest Sin’.

In the present case, we feel obliged to argue for the Public Good!

We are all aware that basic food costs have escalated and in some cases, beyond the buying capacity of families. At the same time the quality and description (Stated or Unstated) of many of the imported and some domestic items is either misleading or false.

We refer to it hear as Mislabeling and let the producers or importers correct these deficiencies.

The below list items are mislabeled and can cause health issues based on their actual ingredients. We submit their declared labeling and the actual ingredients:

Butter Ice: This is deceptive, as it has no relation to or actual butter content. The content is based on Vegetable oil. Scientific evidence reflects excessive consumption of Veg-Oil leads to weight gain – digestive and health issues.

Margarine: Again primarily Veg-Oil.

Mayonnaise: True mayonnaise is made from egg whites, while the product coming into Gambia uses a portion of Powdered Eggs and again Veg-Oil.

Milk Powder or Liquid Tin: There is only One Brand in the country that can be considered as milk (We will not name it – instead we urge label reading). Some even add a Cow on the packaging. There is no Moo – Moo in these items instead again Veg-Oil.

The average Gambian going to a shop for breakfast supplies is consuming mostly Veg-Oil and if one is preferring the Local Bread, as it is considered ‘Heavier’, be aware that the flour needs to be properly and consistently mixed and baked. The nearly raw dough inside is the breeding ground for intestinal bacteria problems. We are not aware of the health officials inspecting these local bakeries; if they did, they would see, as the Author saw, a number of questionable health issues associated with the production and handling of this bread. NGO’s and aid agencies could help by arranging improved equipment, such as mixers and adjustments to baking ovens using firebricks like the pizza makers use. We do not endorse making them close down; instead help them to upgrade and contribute to a much needed food product.

Imported Rice: All eat rice at various times during the week. Years ago the main export country – Thailand would not allow rice more than 35% Broken as it was labeled as unfit for human consumption. Greed and greater profits eventually got even 100% broken into the African market. Although this rice can be nutritious, it can also be dangerous for your health; Excessive insecticide consumption can produce malaria type symptoms.

Listed here are the growing and processing steps for Asian rice,

Before and during planting insecticide is sprayed.

During the growth cycle, the plants are repeatedly sprayed.

Upon harvesting, the rice is received by the milling company and again sprayed.

The resulting Broken Kernels are sprayed and then when bagged into the warehouse they are sprayed again.

Upon export and loading on the vessel or into containers, the cargo is required to be again fumigated.

Now there is your bag of rice at the shop. You buy the bag or the cup to kilo for your meals. Unless the rice is completely washed and rinsed, you are consuming Insecticide, which the body cannot digest, and this leads to a number of health issues and medical costs. If the insecticide were good to eat, it would be packaged and available at the shop!

We are not strictly against the moderate consumption of Green Tea – Attaya, however, the reheating and adding excessive sugar produces a caramel like candy (One can smell it) which is not easily digested and later results in a coating on the stomach lining and the intestinal system, thereby blocking the proper nutrient absorption while adding the corresponding weight gain from heavy doses of sugar.

Now imagine the potential Critical Cocktail of these ingredients festering in the system. It is not possible to get most illnesses with a clean and healthy body. Musa arrives at the pharmacy with all the malaria symptoms; headache, fever, sweating, vomiting, he is absolutely going to be prejudged as having it and here comes the cure ranging from D350 to over D600; was it really Malaria? Spray Bop or burn Moon Tiger in an unvented room for a few days and we will see you getting those tablets at the clinic.

Some years back, the Author participated in a seminar sponsored by the UN and WHO on behalf of the Health Ministry to educate and set the standards for packaging and labeling of food products. With this in mind, the above ministries need a call to action on these issues. It would be advantageous for a GRTS presentation outlining these issues to increase public awareness, promoting healthier eating habits and bring labeling descriptions in line with reality. We are not at playing doctor; however, detoxiing methods are available and could also be highlighted

We really are what we eat. We wish you all continued Health and Prosperity in the New Gambia!

COG – Civilian Oversight Group

Volunteers Welcome!

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