The Minister for Health and Medical Services Hon. Jone Usamate has clarified the incorrect health-related comments made today in Parliament by the Opposition.
This morning the Opposition member Hon. Semesa Karavaki said that the Government’s free milk provision to all school children is major contributor to Type A diabetes.
In response, the Minister said that there are number of errors made in the statement by the Hon. Karavaki which includes;
- There is no such thing as Type A diabetes. There is only Type 1 and Type II diabetes
- Free milk is not provided to all school children, it is only provided to Class 1 students
Type 1 Diabetes is a congenital condition and usually the child is born of a diabetic mother, so the milk provision will not contribute to Type 1 Diabetes or Juvenile Diabetes.
The Minister added that studies have suggested that because infants don’t develop a strong immune system at the early stages of their birth, the cow proteins contained in infant milk formula may later cause diabetes. However the findings of these studies are not conclusive proof of cause and effect and require further research in the future.
The Minister added that because of the weakness in immune system of infants, mothers are strongly encouraged to breastfeed babies.
Young children especially those in schools have the required immune system to digest dairy products. The free milk contributes positively to their development with a healthy dose of calcium and other minerals for the development of brain, bones, teeth and general growth.
The free milk provided by the Government is never intended to be consumed on its own but taken with weetbix which is provided to the schools. Therefore the soluble fibre in weetbix will assist in the removal of bad fats and sugars. The 250ml of milk is mixed with weetbix daily; it provides the following important nutrients:
- 9g protein
- 8g fat
- 12g carbohydrate
- 0.3mg iron
- 312mg calcium
For a 6 year children, the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is:
- Protein 18-24g per day
- Fat 25-30% of total calories per day
- Carbohydrate 55% of total calories per day
- Iron 13mg per day
- Calcium 600mg per day
The provision is within the RDI and in some cases much less contribution; but the gap will be met with the intake of other foods during the 3 meals and snacks daily. So if anything, the milk provision contributes positively to the child’s RDI; and that it does not contribute to Type 1 or Juvenile Diabetes.
The Milk provided to school children is to supplement nutrition from home. Government is also giving nutrition advocacy so that Fijian families can be empowered to choose healthier options from the rich and plentiful supply of foods that Fiji is blessed with. It is also based on the evidence we have that a significant number of Fijian children go to school without breakfast. The key message that it is a supplement.
Furthermore the Ministry of Health & Medical services provide advice to government through its food unit that monitors the quality and safety of any food product that enters the country or produced within for human consumption. District health inspectors have been closely monitoring and advising respective school management on aspects maintaining safety and maintaining quality of food products in schools including milk.