Food and Health in Lebanon

New PictureEvery year the statistics of the ministry of health in Lebanon show that only about 96 cases of food poisoning are being reported annually while the local health experts claimed to have over 100 cases per day as per the hospital reports, so the quality of food is key to a healthy population and we need some decent statistics on that matter. Food is necessary for everyone to survive and its quality should be the same everywhere. Some people do not care about this issue because they are sure from their food’s origin. This issue should be given importance because it affects us and our entire society.

The first reason is replacing healthy food with unhealthy food. Over the years, people’s lifestyle has changed, and food preparation time has been reduced due to jobs and obligations, so people started to replace homemade healthy food with fast-food and restaurant food.

Fast-food contains fat and salt which leads to weight gain, and extra weight can lead to several issues like diabetes and heart diseases. The quality of food also depends on how cleanly the food is prepared.

The second reason is the rise in food prices. You may ask yourself: how do food prices affect the quality of food? When food prices are high, poor people and middle class citizens cannot afford healthy food. And those are the majority of Lebanese society, according to a study by Laithy, H. ; Abu-Ismail, K.; Hamdan, K. in 2008 which demonstrated that 21% of the Lebanese population were classified as poor while 8% (300,000 individuals) were considered extremely poor.

Additionally, according to “globalissues.org”, food prices have been rising for a while, and in some countries it has resulted in food riots and general growing instability. Some people say that this issue is not that important, proposing solutions such as growing vegetables in the garden, and preparing a big quantity of homemade healthy food in the holidays and stocking them up in the fridge. This can be good and we will see to what extent these views are valid. It is nice to grow a garden, but there are no gardens in the cities where the majority of people live and according to CAS & MAS, NHHEUS, 2007, the Lebanese population is estimated at 4 million inhabitants with the majority (85%) living in urban areas, so this view cannot be valid except in rural areas where few people live. And stocking healthy food in the fridge is also a good idea, if and only if the kind of the food can keep its vitamins for a while in the fridge, but every nutritionist says that most food lose the vitamins when they stay a long time in the fridge.

Many steps to enhance food safety need to be carried out across the country like teaching people how to check for fake or bad products bought at supermarkets. Also, ministers should reach an agreement on a framework to increase control of food production and prevent food contamination because the issue of food safety is more important to the Lebanese than political issues in the country.

Last but not least, we need some decent statistics on that matter because there are big differences between the statistics of ministry of health and hospitals reports concerning food poisoning. The replacement of healthy food by unhealthy food, and the rise in food prices are the major reasons of today’s food issues. Food is a major part of human and social life and proper food management is a vital part of overall effective sustainable development and the necessarily related health promotion. Now is the time to think wise, and to rise up our voice to the government, for this issue will only increase negatively if we do not start solving it today!

Georgio Khoury is a regional intern at the World Youth Alliance Middle East.