How Safe is What You Eat?

How safe is what you eat?
By Amber Shahid
JEDDAH – How much attention do you pay to the ingredients in the food that you eat and how aware are you of their effect on your body? Many food items available in the market today have artificial additives and preservatives which can be unhealthy.
Recently, the International Muslims in Jeddah Center (IMIJ) in collaboration with Al-Nabta, a nongovernmental organization for environmental awareness, held “Me and My Body Workshop” to educate the public about food labels, healthy food choices and alternatives, environmentally safe products and packaging, and tips on avoiding food coloring, additives and preservatives.
In her presentation, Loolwa Edris of Al-Nabta focused on children over five and the importance of teaching them about the effects of artificial additives and preservatives in certain candies and juices. Women were taught to be smart shoppers and how to read food labels.
Alicia Ali, a workshop organizer from IMIJ, told Saudi Gazette that the event was the first of its kind and that they were planning more in the future. “Our aim is to educate the public so that they know what they are buying. Usually, people do not realize what they are consuming and giving to their children,” she said.
Candies and juices available in the market are both healthy and unhealthy. But, she said, consumers have little knowledge of the ingredients that they contain, which is why the initiative was taken to teach them in a pleasant social gathering.
Ali said that most people have little knowledge of chemicals and the other basic information required for healthy shopping, and that they find “long and complicated names on labels confusing”. “One must check for the presence of a certification of purity or quality by any well-known organization on food labels,” she explained.
At the workshop, different stalls and shelves displayed healthy and unhealthy products with volunteers at hand to inform people of the ingredients to be avoided when buying a product. Different activities for children were also organized to educate them about junk food and candies.
Unaiza, aged nine, talked to children about the effects of food coloring used in candies and juices. She dipped a white carnation into a food color solution and the children watched while the flower changed color. “I will not eat candies and colas with food color after watching the flower change color. If it can change the color of a flower, what effect will it have on my body,” asked an eight-year-old girl.
Parents were especially concerned about the effects of food additives on the health of their children.
“I am worried about the health of the present generation which is fed with food full of additives and preservatives. It is so difficult to find natural and healthy food these days. Such awareness programs are really important. We should all eat pure and natural food,” said Noorah Yasmin, a mother of three. – SG

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