Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Growing body of information about the food eaten daily in scientific and popular media makes citizens, even the well informed ones, really a confused lot with no degree of clarity on any issue. While this is understandable, what is alarming is the great divide taking place between urban and rural children regarding even the basic aspects regarding food. One can understand a kid coming from the US to India not knowing from where an egg comes or how milk is produced but in India itself many kids raised in urban areas have no clue regarding some of the basics of food, nutrition and health for which the current education system is to be blamed squarely. This is not only true in India but all over the world and action needs to be taken to address this subject as food safety issues are becoming more and more serious with each passing day. The Australian authorities were shocked by recent revelations about the extent of ignorance that exists among the children in urban parts of the country through a well carried out study. Following excerpts reflect the findings of the study. 

"Most Australian children in their last year of primary school think cotton socks come from animals while one-quarter believe yoghurt is from plants, a study warning of the growing gap between city and country found. The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) survey of almost 1,000 students in grades six and 10 found widespread misconceptions about food processing and farming. An overwhelming majority knew where potato chips and coffee came from but almost 20 percent of the younger age group -- aged between 10 and 12 years -- thought pasta came from animals and scrambled eggs from plants. Some 75 percent said cotton socks were an animal product and 27 percent believed yoghurt was derived from plants. "Primary industry plays a vital role in Australian's economy and society, but the gap between rural and urban communities is growing, contributing to a lack of understanding of where food and other basic necessities of life come from," the study said. The agricultural lobby group which commissioned the survey, the Primary Industries Education Foundation (PIEF), said the findings were of concern as Australia prepared to confront food security and climate change challenges. "The people who will need to solve the problems related to food security are either currently in school or are yet to be born," said foundation chief Cameron Archer. Agriculture is a major part of Australia's economy, with two-thirds of all produce shipped overseas. Exports were worth Aus$34.2 billion ($36.6 billion) in 2010-11 and are expected to come in at $34.5 billion in 2011-2012."

For ages it has been argued by food scientists in the country for reforming the curricula in schools with inclusion of study materials highlighting some basic facts about food, hygiene, nutrition and health but with no appreciable success. How can a kid drink a glass of milk every day without understanding about its source and the method of milk extraction from the cow or buffalo? What thought the kids have when they are fed boiled eggs which are excellent sources of almost all vital nutrients? Once the children grow up they have neither the time nor the inclination to learn about these fundamental facts about food. It is time the HRD ministry of GOI and state authorities sit together to modify the curriculum in primary schools to include such essential information with the help of concerned scientists. A well informed kid of to day has a better chance to become a responsible citizen of tomorrow, capable of sharing the burden of ensuring safety of foods eaten every day. Sooner it is done better it will be for the country.  


No comments: