Brazil’s fight to alleviate poverty has conjured up controversy in the country’s biggest city over a plan that didn’t go over too well to feed the poor with a flour made of food close to it’s expiry date. Joan Doria, a multimillionaire celebrity turned politician made a plan to improve the city’s diet and to promote homegrown fruits and vegetables is now facing criticism from those who are public health and nutrition conscious.
This plan being called “human pet food” is being pushed by populist, conservative mayor of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria. Doria defends the product called farinata, standing firm that it will help relieve hunger at no extra expense to the city’s government. But nutritionist presume that the strategy is at the expense of the public’s health, as the city has dealt with worsening poverty while simultaneously dealing with an obesity problem. It’s been reported that every year in Brazil, there are one million new cases of obesity. The latter is believed to be caused by packages of cheap-processed fast food and that this hunger eradication policy is an extension of the dilemma.
Nutritionists, are also worried about lack of information: not enough is known about the contents of farinata and whether it would be safe to consume, claiming that it’s an ultra-processed product. Not to mention, health advocates are also concerned with feeding farinata to schoolkids, as there has been no confirmation if the product had undergone safety and nutritional test required by law for school meals.
A strong motive to question the hunger initiative are the tax breaks being offered: Companies donating food receive a tax break. Some have alluded to food corporations looking to exploit the system, as the mayor sanctioned a law offering tax breaks to companies who donate their food they can’t sell by it’s sell-by date. With unemployment and poverty being high in Brazil, nutritionists speculate that this was mainly put in place for the big companies who can’t sell their food to profit.
Proponents of the flour argue that their is no foul or hidden intention and that the sole purpose is to prolong food from restaurants to give to those in need instead of letting it go to waste. The developers of farinata insists that they follow techniques that have always been applied in the industry and that the process can prolong food up two two years in Brazil.
Regional Council of Nutritionists members stated, “We need to know if this product is safe, if it has conditions to be offered….without this information it is very difficult to be sure.” As of this time, no statement has been issued yet by the school or health department on the safety of the product.
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