MALAYSIA — An opposition member of parliament in Malaysia has alluded that consuming low-quality food could risk people being exposed to illnesses, such as cancer and autism.
Dr Halimah Ali, MP from the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), claimed that the Menu Rahmah, an initiative providing affordable meals initiated by the Malaysian government, should not compromise the quality of meals provided to the less fortunate.
As a medical doctor, the PAS representative said she was concerned about the pressing issue of food safety.
“We do not want shortcuts, we do not want compromise the public’s health with ‘low-quality’ meal,” she said.
“I have no issue with the term ‘Rahmah‘, but we do not want the B40 population to be given low-quality food supplies that may also expose them to cancer, autoimmune diseases, autism, and so on,” said the MP for Kapar during Malaysia Parliament sitting on 14 February.
Dr Halimah’s remarks have since gone viral today, and some netizens believed that Halimah was mistaken in linking food to autism issues.
The Menu Rahmah is an initiative rolled out by the Malaysian government, aimed specifically at helping the hardcore poor by providing lunch or dinner meals at an affordable price.
Customers, particularly those in the B40 group who earn less than RM4,850 per month, will be able to enjoy meals at a price as low as RM5 (approximately S$1.5).
Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen, Kuching MP, sought clarification from Dr Halimah on Twitter about what kinds of foods used in a Menu Rahmah meal could possibly cause autism.
Sebagai Dr perubatan, saya nak tanya, makanan apakah yang dimakan boleh mengakibatkan autisme?
Tolong jelaskan.. https://t.co/0wevEgHEcY
— Kelvin yii (@Kelvinyii88) February 15, 2023
Netizens said Menu Rahmah consisted a balance diet
Other netizens commented on SAYS‘s Facebook post, pointing out that the affordable price does not necessarily mean that the quality of the food is compromised.
Faizal Azlan stated that the meal consisted of a reasonable proportion of vegetables, meat, and carbohydrates, is an improvement from what was previously available.
He questioned why the MP complained when no efforts were made to address the issue when the opposition, Perikatan National (PN), had the opportunity when they were the ruling coalition.
“Of course, it is not brown rice or quinoa or some happening vegi and wagyu…”
Another netizen said that compared to popular Malaysian staple foods like nasi lemak, roti canai, and char keow tiaw, the Menu Rahmah, which consists of meat, vegetables, and rice, is significantly healthier.
Dr Halimah claimed her remarks had been misunderstood
Dr Halimah told Malay Mail that her remarks on the Menu Rahmah were misconstrued.
She explained that her intention was to highlight that the poor quality of raw materials used by restaurants for Menu Rahmah could compromise the quality of the meal.
Dr Halimah also expressed concern that Menu Rahmah could be taken advantage of by those who could afford regular-priced meals, emphasizing the need for the government to monitor the situation and ensure that the food provided is nutritious and not harmful to health.
“Logically speaking, how are restaurants going to check if a diner is really poor? The government must find a way to keep tabs on this, ” she said.
Her original speech can be heard here: