I found it strange that officials of the Health Department started checking if babies confined in hospitals with kidney ailments could be victims of the contaminated Sanlu milk from China. Sanlu milk was not exported to the Philippines. The accompanying statement of health officials clarified the issue with the admission that Sanlu milk could have been smuggled into the country and sold without labels.
This practice of selling unbranded milk is not something new. As early as 15 years ago when my husband was still working in another company, he had fellow employees who sold unlabeled powdered milk in half kilo bags. Where the milk originated, no one knew. The customers were only told that the milk was bought by the sack then repacked into half kilo bags. With Filipinos’ penchant for tingi (buying in small amounts), the milk sold like hotcakes.
It might seem strange that people actually bought unlabeled milk whose origins were unknown. But considering that the price was almost 50 percent lower than branded powdered milk, what budget conscious person would not consider it?
Today, in the wake of the Sanlu scandal and the possibility that Filipino babies may be among the victims, some people are already blaming the mothers of these babies. There are those who ask what kind of mother would feed her baby with unlabeled milk from unknown origins. Well, see, most branded milk formulas are beyond the buying capacity of majority of Filipino families. In fact, my mother had a laundry woman who confided to me once that she fed all her six children with sweetened condensed milk diluted with water because they could not afford infant formula.
It’s really a matter of economics. Just like the poor folk who can only afford cures like those sold in front of the Quiapo church, there are parents who can only afford cheap milk for their babies. The absence of labels and information on origins might be considered small risks if the alternative is not having any milk at all to feed their little ones.
But it is also a matter of education. And I am not talking about formal education here. I am talking about the government’s responsibility to educate people. But when you have a government who practically denies that smuggling still takes place, as a matter of course, in the Philippines, can you expect it to launch an information campaign to try to explain why people should be wary of unlabeled milk and other food items with mysterious origins? That would be admitting that smuggling is commonplace, wouldn’t it?
The saddest part is that instead of taking pains to determine whether Sanlu milk could have indeed been smuggled into the country and sold to the public, we have government officials overreacting by freezing imports and pulling off the supermarket shelves just about any milk and milk-based product from China. What kind of solution is that? That’s a double whammy. That’s discriminating against legitimate Chinese producers and exporters of milk and milk-based products. Worse, that is hurting poor Filipinos who can not afford the que horror prices of milk and milk products sold locally by multinational companies.
So we have a government who has continually failed to educate the people of the dangers of buying unlabeled food products. That same government is cutting off the supply of cheap milk because it cannot curb smuggling. Where does that leave the consumers, especially the poor ones? For those with children below two years old, breastfeed them. For the rest, understand that while milk is a good source of calcium, it is not the only source of calcium. Sardines, okra, tofu and beans are all rich in calcium.
That’s not common knowledge? If it isn’t, consider the claims in the article “Calcium Rich Foods: Get All The Calcium You Need Without Milk” published in a British web site called The Healthier Life: Join the Natural Health Revolution. It says, “Thanks to generations of dairy industry propaganda (and brilliant advertising agencies), we’ve all been trained to believe that dairy products are our best and primary sources of bone-strengthening-calcium that we all need.”
The article goes on to say that, “According to US HSI Panel member Dr Allan Spreen, there is a long list of reasons why milk is unhealthy or at least not the solution we’ve been told, including “evidence that the antibodies the body makes to milk are closely related to the antibodies that destroy islet cells (insulin producers) in the pancreas in cases of juvenile diabetes” and findings that “homogenisation breaks up the enzyme xanthine oxidase, which in its altered (smaller) state can then enter the bloodstream and react against arterial walls, causing the body to protect the area with a layer of cholesterol.”
Isn’t that just propaganda of the other side? It might be. But, when making any decision, it is always better to hear both sides first. Do further research on your own then decide if it isn’t wise to give up your milk fixation.