Tag Archives: World news

Food shortages take toll on Venezuelans’ diet

Nutritionists point to long-term health risks of low-quality food as basic staples are hard to find or being sold at exorbitant prices

Not so long ago, whenever Juan Gonzlez would go to the butcher hed buy a few nice steaks for himself and cow lung, known here as bofe, to chop up and feed his dog.

Now bofe is what I eat, when I can get it, said the 55-year-old elevator repairman on a street in the Venezuelan capital.

With prolonged shortages of basic foods, Venezuelans have been forced to shift their diets to whatever they can find. And what they can find is not necessarily healthy.

Milk, meat and beans the main sources of protein in the Venezuelan diet are hard to find or sold at exorbitant prices, and many are filling up on empty carbs from pasta, rice and the traditional arepa cornmeal cake.

These fill you up and make you fat but they are not nutritious, said nutritionist Hctor Cruces. Viscera are high in fat and low on protein.

A study revealed last month by Venezuelas top three universities showed that 12% of those polled said they were eating less than three meals a day.

And those who do have access to three meals have seen a deterioration in the quality of their diet, said Marianella Herrera-Cuenca, of the Bengoa Foundation, an NGO dedicated to promoting nutrition.

Children and the elderly are hardest hit. Investigators from the Bengoa Foundation said a sampling of 4,000 school-aged children showed 30% were malnourished and that school absences were on the rise.

Paula Arciniegas, 19, said she worried about the development of her two-year-old daughter because when she cant find milk which is often she calms her childs hunger with a mix of water and cornstarch.

And I try to get her to sleep through the morning so I dont have to worry about her breakfast, she said.

Cruces, the nutritionist, predicted that future generations of Venezuelans will be shorter and wider because of the low quality of the food they are consuming. The lack of calcium will stunt growth and excess carbohydrates will make them fat, he said.

Critics of the socialist government of Nicols Maduro say food production collapsed in the oil-reliant country due to a mix of the expropriation of farmland and agro-industrial enterprises and strict price controls that made importing food cheaper than producing it locally. But a byzantine currency control system and plummeting oil prices have slashed imports of raw materials and food products.

Empresas Polar, the countrys largest food processor, warned last month it was halting beer production due to a lack of barley, and Coca-Cola said its low sugar stocks may force it to stop production of soft drinks.

Government supporters say its all part of a destabilisation plan backed by a rightwing opposition and foreign interests that want to see Maduro ousted from power.

To counter that economic war, Maduro has urged people to grow their own food and raise chickens in their homes and created the ministry of urban farming; more than 80% of Venezuelans live in cities.

Rafael Camacho, 56, took the idea to heart. Originally from the rural region of Barlovento where his family had a farm, Camacho says he has dredged up what he learned as a child to help feed his family of nine. On a slope behind his half-built home on the hills above Caracas, he proudly shows off the budding plants of corn, squash, bananas, melon and beans. On the rooftop of his house he planted cilantro and peppers and various herbs.

Rafael Camacho shows off his rooftop vegetable and herb garden in Caracas. Photograph: Sibylla Brodzinsky

Im a farmer by nature, I know how to do this, he says.

Camacho still has to stand in line for rice, cornflour, meat and other staples. But with this we know we wont go hungry.

The government is also promoting direct sales from producers in the countryside to consumers.

In the poor Caracas neighbourhood of Carapita, residents lined up to buy vegetables brought directly from Trujillo state to their community centre. There, they were able to mix and match potatoes, tomatoes, onions, beets, red peppers and cabbage at 355 bolivars (82 cents at the highest official exchange rate) per kilo. At informal street market prices, they could go for as much as 1,000 bolivars ($2.33) per kilo.

Around the corner, for 300 bolivars (70 cents) they could buy a prefilled bag of small portions of cooking oil, pasta, rice, flour and sugar.

This is how we are fighting the economic war, says Americo Jaramillo, spokesman for the community council.

In a country hooked on processed food, the shortages have forced some to get creative. For most Venezuelans a meal isnt a meal if there are no arepas. Since processed cornflour is hard to find newspapers offer readers recipes on how to make them from plantains, yucca or yams.

But on a steep hill in in the Petare district of Caracas, Mara Hidalgo, has refused to give up on traditional corn arepas.

She pulled out an old corn mill she had in a closet, rigged it up to a small motor and started making her own cornmeal dough, selling to friends and neighbours.

Its like going back in time, she said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/24/venezuela-crisis-basic-food-shortages

Parents who feed children vegan diet face prosecution under proposed Italian law

Centre-right MP says he wants law aimed at protecting children from diets that can leave them lacking in iron and other vitamins

An Italian politician is calling for laws that would see parents prosecuted for imposing vegan diets and other reckless and dangerous eating behavour on their children.

Elvira Savino, the deputy of the centre-right Forza Italia party, has proposed legislation that would see parents who give their children aged 16 and under an inadequate diet sentenced to up to six years in prison.

Known as the Savino law, it aims to stigmatise the reckless and dangerous eating behaviour imposed by parents … to the detriment of minors, reports Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

It encompassed vegan diets those without meat, eggs, dairy or animal products of any kind which Savino said can leave children lacking in the iron, zinc, B12 and other vitamins necessary for their development.

Savino, who worked in public relations before being elected a parliamentarian in 2008, wrote in the introduction to the law that the belief that a vegetarian diet, even in the rigid form of a vegan diet, results in significant health benefits was becoming more widespread in Italy.

There is no objection if the person making this choice is an informed adult. A problem arises when children are involved.

To counteract ideological excesses linked to diet, she proposed a one-year prison sentence for the basic offence, extended if the child is aged under three.

The suggested penalty for parents whose children became sick or injured as a result of malnutrition ranged from two years and six months to four years, and four to six years if death resulted.

But the Italian Society of Food Science rejected Savinos assertions, with president Andrea Ghiselli telling La Repubblica that diets containing excessive sugar and fat were of greater concern than the risks of deficiency of a vegan diet.

The proposal follows a string of high-profile cases of malnutrition brought on by veganism.

A one-year-old boy in Milan raised on a strict vegan diet was last month removed from his parents custody after he was found to be severely malnourished, weighing just 5kg.

Levels of calcium in his blood were said to be at the lowest necessary for him to survive and he underwent emergency surgery because of a heart condition, the English-language Italian news site The Local reported.

In June, a two-year-old toddler spent several days in intensive care in a pediatric hospital in Genoa, being treated for vitamin deficiencies as a result of her vegan diet.

In mid-April last year, an Italian court ruled that a woman in Bergamo, northern Italy, must cook meat for her son at least once a week following complaints from the boys father.

She had been raising him on a macrobiotic diet, the Local reported.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/aug/10/parents-children-vegan-diet-prosecuted-italian-law