Unhygienic food and immunity

I was in Pakistan couple of weeks ago and there was a picture in Daily Jang on the last page which showed school kids eating ice lollies after school from a street vendor. The caption of the picture was something along the lines of “the kids are eating unhygienic food right outside school and the government is not doing anything about it”.

I wondered what role does the esteemed newspaper expect the government to play. When the government itself cannot supply clean water to the people, how can it expect the poor vendor to make ice lollies in filtered, boiled, purified Nestle / Aquafina water and still be able to sell it to kids at reasonable prices and margins.

Times have changed since we were kids. Though now I squirm at seeing a attendant handling food with his bare hands at a fast food joint, I didn’t grow up feeling this way. I think living in west and seeing everyone using plastic gloves to handle food has had its effect.

I remember buying gola gandas (crushed ice lolly) from vendor when I was a kid. He used to make it in front of us. He would grab the ice blocks and shred it in front of us manually using his hands, then he would collect the shredded ice in his hand and either put it in a glass or around a stick, all the while using his bare hands; the same hands he used to push the cart, wipe his sweat, handle his privates for urinating at some wall I presume (there weren’t many public toilets in those times).

Then there was the chat wala who used to serve chat in the plates he brought with him. He used to have two buckets of water dangling in his cart. The dirty plates that we used to return to him after eating, he would first dip in the first bucket in which water had become murky for being the first rinsing bucket. He would then dip it in the second bucket which had relatively cleaner water as all the leftover sauce and crumbles had been cleaned in the first bucket. If needed, he would use a brown towel which must have been white when he started off in the morning to dry the plates. The plates were ready to be served in to the next customer.

Regarding the fried stuff, my father used to constantly admonish us that don’t buy it from vendors as they use the same oil for months and it had probably turned black but we didn’t pay heed to him.

It is not that water was cleaner or there was no pollution in those times nor our clothes were washed in antigermicide fabric softener nor did we have these macleans, close up etc. From where I come from, we used luqmani manjan (which used to turn our mouth black) to clean our teeth, clothes were washed in Apna Sabun 101 and dirt was beaten off with a log, there were no safeguard soap, hand sanitizers and we played outside day and night, dirtying ourselves in the ground, sand, mud and each others germs, sweat and probably spit as well. Despite all this I don’t recall anyone falling with Hepatitis, severe flu or even food poisoning like the kids today. May be it was the unhygienic food that built our immunity.

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