It is believed that if consumed regularly for an extended period of time, foods of animal origin such as milk and meat can reduce the deficiency of micronutrients such as a lack of iron, folic acid and vitamins.

By Kumar Ranjan,

The impact of foods of animal origin on the nutritional status of pregnant women has long been a debatable topic. We are rapidly evolving into a world full of packaged food products. The growing demand for food of animal origin is being met with a range of branded and unbranded products available on supermarket shelves in various price ranges.

It is believed that if consumed regularly for an extended period of time, foods of animal origin such as milk and meat can reduce the deficiency of micronutrients such as a lack of iron, folic acid and vitamins. Especially for women of childbearing age or pregnant women, food of animal origin can be a blessing.

But what is really worrying in the present day is the authenticity of all the products available in the market for consumption. While most products meet FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) guidelines, there is no confirmation of the source: the animals and their diet.

The food these animals consume has a direct impact on the quality of the final product. Several past studies have shown that there is a widespread practice of adding antibiotics, sub-therapeutic doses and enzymes to animal feed for the purpose of increasing productivity. Often antibiotics intended for treatment are used as growth promoters to increase yield. The practice is so harmful that it has been banned completely in Europe, but many countries, including India, are still reeling under the adversity caused by the consumption of adulterated animal foods.

Livestock is often fed with low-quality agro-industrial by-products because it is cheaper. However, ‘lower price, poorer quality’ – this lower quality feed and feed consumed by animals contains residues of pesticides used on the crops, which are immediately transferred to the animal by-products, especially meat and eggs, causing the way to our plates.

The same goes for the risk with milk. In India, milk is the most adulterated product and at the same time the most consumed and recommended food during pregnancy, leading to a variety of health problems for both mother and child. A study conducted by FSSAI in 33 Indian states found that milk contained traces of laundry detergent, chalk, caustic soda and even urea. While most counterfeiters are added at the time of processing and packaging, there is also a high risk of transferring these toxins from the animals to the consumers. For example, if the moisture content in the feed exceeds 11%, the feed will develop a fungal infection. The fungus is then converted into a carcinogenic substance (Aflatoxin) in cattle and ends up in the milk. According to FSSAI, aflatoxin M1 in milk is a carcinogen. In 2019, FSSAI’s National Milk Safety and Quality Survey made a shocking revelation that 14% of milk samples collected from Tamil Naidu had Aflatoxin M1 levels and fell outside the allowable limit because the feed accumulated excess moisture during the rainy season.

Another common bacteria in milk is Listeria. Once transferred to the diet of pregnant women, listeria can cause miscarriage, serious illness and even death of the newborn baby.

Not only pregnant women, substandard foods of animal origin can lead to serious ailments in perfectly healthy individuals. It can be particularly dangerous or even fatal for people with weakened immune systems. If consumed for a long time, the toxins and bacteria present in the food can even lead to cancer or serious stomach/digestive problems.

The impact of lower quality animal food on human health is striking and one of the most viable solutions to tackle this ever-important problem is to focus on animal nutrition. A balanced diet for farm animals can greatly benefit human health because if something artificial or of poor quality is fed to animals, it eventually enters the food chain. Therefore, it is crucial to care about the diet of the animals in order to maintain the ecological balance and the sanctity of the food chain.

The best way to feed farm animals a balanced diet is to train the livestock farmers and teach them how to produce a well-balanced diet using the local ingredients. In addition to better quality, localized feed can also be cost-effective and improve the condition of farmers in terms of better livelihoods and quality of business.

(The author is CEO and Founder, eFeed. The article is for informational purposes only. Consult medical experts and health professionals before beginning any supplement, therapy, medication and/or remedy. Opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect any official position or policy from Financial Express Online.)

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