Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 25 October 2015





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Government Gazette

A warning from the Ministry of Health:

Put sausages on hold

by Carol Aloysius

The Health Ministry has warned the public to abstain from consuming sausages, particularly those that come in unbranded packing, as they could lead to several serious non communicable diseases ( NCDs) including cancer.

"Put sausages on hold if they are a part of your regular diet. They are unhealthy, high in bad fat with little nutritious value and could send children to their graves early as they could cause serious illnesses including cancer of the bowels and gut.", Toxicology Information Unit Head, National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Dr Waruna Gunathileke said, adding that unbranded sausages which carried no labels or expiry dates, were especially injurious to human health.

"We have evidence to prove this," he told the Sunday Observer. " The Toxicology Information Unit at the National Hospital has received several complaints from people recently about adverse health impacts such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea they had suffered from, after ingesting sausages that had no brand names."

When asked from where they had purchased these sausages, he said, "Many of them told us they had been purchased in take away restaurants and small way side eateries. These outlets usually do not use branded sausages as they are purchased in bulk at reduced rates. Since there are no labels and expiry dates on pre-cooked sausages sold whole or in minced form in buns, rolls or pastries, the consumer has no way to check if they are fit for consumption before hand."

It is not just pre-cooked sausages that sends consumers rushing to toilets and even ending up in hospitals.

According to Dr Gunathileke, sausages as well as other raw meats sold as meat balls, or spicy chicken with garlic etc, sold loose in the Butchery Section of various supermarkets are also more often than not, sub standard in quality and unfit for consumption. " Unlike those displayed on the shelves, these meat products that are sold unpackaged in the butchery section of supermarkets have no expiry dates or names of the manufacturing company. If the dates are expired or about to expire, we have been told that some dishonest super market managers sell the meats in value added forms so as to make a quick profit instead of discarding the outdated products.

To cover up the taste of spoiled meat, these unscrupulous supermarkets drench the products in tomato sauce, or garlic and ginger paste and sell them for an even higher price than the original product," Dr Gunathileke said. He said he had information that some of these near expired unbranded sausages were being surreptitiously despatched to small eating houses and hotels at reduced prices. He warned the public to insist on the brand, date of manufacture and expiry dates . "They have a right to obtain this information", he added.

Health impact

The health impact of eating expired meat products could be severe and long lasting, he warned. " Our Unit has all the information that Managers of supermarkets and the staff should know of the danger of selling spoiled foods with expiry dates to customers," he noted. He said sausages and other pre-cooked meats such as meat balls, tinned corned beef and mutton, spare ribs and other such food items in general were injurious to human health, for many reasons. "They contain Nitrites, a chemical used to preserve food. Long term ingestion of this chemical can lead to colon cancers. In addition, they also contain high fat deposits which can lead to high cholesterol and ischaemic heart diseases. Acute short term effects especially of eating outdated sausages could result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and gut related or gastro intestinal infections. If eaten after the expiry date, it could complicate these issues further", he warned..

Public Health Community Physician in charge of school health Dr Ayesha Lokubalasuriya agreed that sausages were unhealthy and unnecessary in school children's daily diets. The most vulnerable groups are students from private and international schools in and around the city, since they are surrounded by a glut of food outlets, some with international brands selling hamburghers, fried chicken wings, nuggets , meat ball buns advertised as being 'healthy food'. "There should be legislation to ban such outlets within at least a mile radius from the schools. In some countries such as India,m fast food outlets are banned by law within a two mile radius of schools , so why can't Sri Lanka follow this example?", she asked.

Schools' canteen policy

Asked about the School Canteen Policy aimed at ensuring healthy food being served in school, she said. "The Schools Canteen Policy is in operation. What we need is a law that enforces it in all schools in the island." She said, "From 2007 we have been asking school canteens to stop selling this type of food. Although most rural schools have implemented our circular, the majority of better known schools in Colombo have ignored our circular. In the fresh list of foods for 2016, which should not be sold in canteens of all state schools we have once again included sausages as one item. However, since there is no law to enforce it, we can only advise school authorities to adhere to it".


Director Non Communicable Diseases ( NCD), Health Ministry, Dr Thilak Siriwardene endorsed the fact that the consumption of sausages and other ready- made meat products should be avoided as far as possible, especially among school- children and elderly persons suffering from various non communicable diseases.

"It is these foods that lay the foundation for early development of non communicable diseases. Our studies have shown that several children are already pre-diabetic. In Colombo due to over eating of starchy and high fatty food without burning down the calories with exercise, nearly 1/3 of children are obese or overweight. Even if they are within the normal weight range, they could have diabetes or cholesterol.", he warned. "The key to good health is a balanced diet with less fats, sugar and salt, eating more vegetables and fruits, and taking plenty of exercise", he emphasised. Adding that the habit of eating fast foods and consuming fizzy sugary drinks had now spread to even rural areas where leading manufacturers of such foods had set up business establishments in provincial towns or enfranchised small boutique owners to sell such products, he said it was difficult to keep a check on such outlets although Public health Inspectors in the respective areas were doing their best to monitor their sales.

"This is not something the Health Ministry can do alone. No one can legally prevent unhealthy foods being sold in supermarkets. But we can curtail advertisements that boost these products as,' healthy foods children require for development and growth'.

We can also reduce the sale of sub quality items with stricter enforcement of the laws under the Food Act. But before that , there has to be a change in our lifestyles and eating habits. So it has to be a collective action on the part of everyone of us," Dr Siriwardene stressed.

One-Stop screening for breast cancer

Lanka Hospitals PLC will launch the One-Stop Women’s Imaging Centre to screen breast cancer and other diagnostics tests for early breast cancer detection.

The Imaging Centre will have the latest, state-of-the-art digital mammogram machinery to ensure minimal discomfort and lowest radiation to patients.

The latest of its kind, Fujifilm, Amulet Innovality has the highest sensitivity to detect breast cancer at a very early stage with the capability to perform breast biopsies and localization procedures.

Marking the importance of October declared as breast cancer month, Lanka Hospitals will also host breast cancer survivors at a ‘Breast Cancer Survivors Seminar’ on October 27, 2015 at the hospital premises mooted by Consultant Oncological Surgeon, Dr. Naomal Perera, is the seminar The Can-Sur-Vive Trust, a CSR project of the Association of the Josephian Blues.

The seminar on the 27th will be the first of many quarterly meetings organized for survivors, the purpose of which is to register as many survivors for additional assistance they may require.

The initial meeting will be held in Colombo to increase the range to the suburbs and rural areas in the coming years.

Tuesday’s seminar will be attended by Minister of Women’s and Child’s Affairs, Chandrani Bandara and Swarna Mallawarachchi – an award-winning Sri Lankan actor and breast cancer survivor.

To register call the hotline – 0713161616.


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