Despite the rich culinary traditions of India, people today are losing control over their eating habits, increasingly becoming a product of “designer foods” like snacks, environmentalist Sunita Narain has said. “Most of us, the urban literate, hate to be told that we are manufactured. We believe we are totally in control of our food choices.
But the fact remains that our food habits have actually been created.
“From convenient to processed food and the very emergence of snacks has led to social transmutation. We have become a product of designer food,” Narain said.
She was speaking at the launch of the book “First Food: Culture of Taste”, published by the Center for Science and Environment.
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The book delves into the natural factors that contributed towards shaping India’s multi-cuisine culture.
According to Narain, food safety is an integral part of the new food culture, and believes smart food regulations are the need of the hour.
“We have tested antibiotics in chicken, potassium bromate in bread. We keep doing all that but do not understand that food safety is an integral part of the new food culture.
“We need smart food regulations for the new generation. We can not afford to first contaminate our food with toxins and antibiotics and then clean-up,” she said.
Narain also said organic food could be made affordable only if the bio-diversity was not destroyed.
“We must not be asking for an elite organic movement which is affordable only to a section of society. Growing organic food has to be affordable which means that we should not contaminate the bio-diversity and then clean up.”
She said that despite having a tradition of healthy food and living, it has been “multinationalised” with most people lacking the kitchen knowledge their grandmothers had.
“The essence of traditional food is getting lost because we are losing the holders of that knowledge — our grandmothers and mothers made food that were local and nutritious.
“It is also getting lost because we do not value their knowledge. That is the reason that our food is getting multinationalised and chemicalised,” she said.
For her, food is not only about taste but nutrition, safety as well as protecting bio-diversity.
“Although the big issue for us is to bring the flavours back, it also has to be connected with the nutrition value, safety and protecting bio-diversity,” she said.