Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Ministry of Food Processing is trying to kill us

This ad appeared in The Times of India edition dated Jan 31, 2007. It's decidedly ugly. It's also unoriginal: the tagline "Processed food mein hai kuchh khaas" (there's something special about processed food) seems inspired by McDonald's tagline "McDonald's mein hai kuchh baat" (there's something special about McDonald's). There's not even a fig-leaf of an attempt to conceal where the message is coming from.

And what is this nonsense about how wonderful processed foods are? If anyone knows how to preserve foods, Indians do. Even my great-great-grandmothers know how to make sun-dried papads and achaars that keep for a year or more. They could stock dried fruit, dehydrated legumes, and six months worth of food grain sealed in giant earthen jars. Their year's supply of spices was ensured by sun-drying and pounding large quantities of ginger, cloves, peppercorns, chilli peppers, turmeric, cumin, and coriander seeds. Their kitchens had stores of rice that had been only husked, or processed into poha, or puffed into kurmura -- all of which are good for you, and which keep for months. They bought chickpeas that were either green, or dried into chana, or further processed into chana dal, or still further into besan. I think they did not have much use for butylated hydroxytoluene (which sounds like an ingredient in a bomb recipe, and not like something to eat) and without the plastic McLitter of Modified Atmosphere Packaging.

Why is Indian taxpayer money propping up an entire ministry for food processing? I say the money is better spent establishing a Ministry for Consuming Food and Water As Close As Possible to Where and When They Occur Naturally.

It seems that attracting investment, especially foreign investment, has become a goal in itself. The government has lost sight of why, and for whom, India needs investment.

Now, if only if those fresh-food-browsing losers would all switch to eating food embalmed with chemicals, mummified in polluting packaging, and far removed from the time and place of its birth, we could realize our fear of hell on earth. And the people over at the ministry for food processing would feel needed.

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