SRINAGAR: As summer temperatures rise, doctors issue their annual warnings against food sold at stalls outside schools and the hazards it poses to children’s health. Ice-creams and other snacks sold in an “unhygienic manner” at such stalls must be guarded against if common childhood afflictions are to be avoided .
Dr. Isaq Shafi, pediatric gastroenterologist and nutrition specialist, says, “Children don’t have a strong immune system. Consuming such foods can make them susceptible to infections.”
Come summer and the childhood health complaints begin pouring in ranging from stomach aches, coughs, sore throats, diarrhoea, fever and other infections. Dr. Isaq has a single explanation for all these occurrences. “Almost 15 percent of my patients come with such signs, and this is because they eat substandard things in and outside schools,” he says.
Doctors say that food handlers don’t use hygienic practices, such as washing their hands before touching food items, thus making the food unsafe. “In addition to this, flies and dust particles also cause the contamination of uncovered food. Even preservatives can also be dangerous for human consumption,” said Dr. Isaq
Dr. Faheem, who works in a local clinic at Maisuma, has been witnessing children complaining of fever and sore throat. He says, “On hot days, there is more chance of food items going stale. Food sellers sell stale food by taking advantage of children’s gullibility. Parents should strictly avoid giving children uncovered roadside food.”
Colouring agents used to make food attractive to children can also have long-term dangerous effects on children’s health. “Artificial colouring agents commonly used in food include erythrosine for giving red color to food and tartrazine for enhancing yellow. Erythrosine causes cancer in animals, and tartrazine is responsible for hyper-sensitive behaviour in children and adrenal tumours in animals. These are banned since 1999 in America, but these dyes are still used here,” said Dr. S M Salim Khan who heads the department of Social and Preventive Medicine.
While talking about food safety, food commissioner Hilal Mir told Kashmir Reader, “We take samples of these street foods to check the safety of the food stuff. If they fail to comply with food standards, they are fined up to Rs 1 lakh. Till now, 50 street vendors have been fined.”