His Majesty King Tupou VI

Kaniva News commentary

In March this year, His  Majesty said living healthy must become a permanent feature of Tonga in the future.

His Majesty’s call has come to mind again after reports that more food has been seized in Vava’u.

Kaniva News is waiting to confirm the reports for more details of the seizure, but it comes on top of yesterday’s reports of disputes between different authorities over the issue .

The citizens of Vava’u have a long history of grievances over food, stretching back to complaints  about rotten rations and re-labelled expired and being distributed as cyclone relief.

However, Vava’u is not the only place in Tonga where bad food has been found. The same problems have occurred in Tongatapu and Ha’apai.

Tonga has been fortunate so far to remain free of the Covid-19 virus.

However, the kingdom faces many other serious health problems, including obesity and diabetes.

His Majesty has urged people to eat healthy food, especially locally produced natural products.

According to a BBC report, in 1973, 7% of Tongans suffered from non-communicable diseases, which largely meant diabetes. By 2004 the figure was 18%. In 2016 it was 34% and some think the figure could be as high as 40%.

Diabetes has become such an issue that there have been cases of overstayers in New Zealand pleading to be allowed to stay so they can receive the treatment for diabetes that will keep them alive.

The blame of the spread of diabetes has been laid on a change in Tongan diet from the traditional one of fish, root vegetables and coconuts to one involving imported food, especially tinned meat and fatty cuts like lamb flaps.

The desire for meat and tinned food has, some believe, provided opportunities for unscrupulous merchants and importers  to import substandard food.

Whether those suspicions are true should be a matter of the courts, but it will also require co-ordinated activity between different levels of government.

Their primary concern should be to determine whether food is fit for consumption, to stop bad food being imported and to punish those who bring it into the country.

His Majesty’s call for healthy living should be a guide to how this problem can be treated. With all its health problems, Tonga does not need to have additional burdens placed on the health system or its people.

While strengthening the country’s legal control of food imports, perhaps it is also time to remind people of the healthy options available from Tonga’s own soil and oceans.

More consumption of this food could make the population healthier, but also boost the local economy by increasing income for fishermen and farmers.

The main points

  • In March this year, His Majesty said living healthy must become a permanent theme for Tonga in the future.
  • His Majesty’s call has come to mind again after the news that more meat has been seized in Vava’u.

For more information

Parliament closure: King concerned about children’s studies saying coronavirus is “difficult challenge”

Vava‘u Town Officer claims authorities flouting food safety laws as heated dispute erupts over dirty buckets of salt beef

How mutton flaps are killing Tonga

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