|Interestingly, the subject matter that caused this commotion was none other than the highly regarded soya bean. In the blink of an eye, Martin Sampa told the parliamentary committee that his research findings show that the innocuous soya bean which has become part of Zambia’s health diet is in fact listed in the Poisonous Plant Database and is responsible for the alarming rate of diabetes, breast and cervical cancers in Zambian women.|
Sampa whose specific area of specialization is tuberculosis told the parliamentary committee that he found that patients who were given soya bean based protein tend to develop allergies, asthma and other conditions. It is through this discovery that he looked at soya’s effects on other diseases including cancer that resulted in his conclusion of its harm.
Emphasizing soya’s listing as a poisionous plant Sampa said, ‘it can induce tumors, cancers and disrupts the hormonal balance in the body. It also has effects on disrupting cellular integrity’. ‘These cancers, which in the recent past were either very rare or completely unheard of in our communities have become common occurrences.‘Diet is one of the emerging risk factors for breast and cervical cancer. It’s a key area, which
requires adequate research attention,’ Sampa said. Referring to his research paper findings, Sampa told the parliamentary committee that ‘Soya is now part of our health diet and is found in most off shelve foods such as mealie meal, biscuits, instant soups, margarines, cooking oils and bread from the groceries and supermarkets. These are available to every consumer who is completely unaware of its toxicity.’
Sampa says that it is ‘regrettable’ that the ‘precautionary principal’ is being disregarded on soya which is being ‘portrayed as the ultimate health food’.
|Quantities consumed detrimental legislation needed|
|‘Presumably, this is being done to overcome protein deficiency’ Sampa said. ‘It is fed to infants as part of their high-energy protein supplement (HEPS) in the under-five clinic programmes. It’s also increasingly becoming a standard protein of choice in boarding schools. It has been incorporated into the HIV/AIDS nutritional regimes, and soya is now routinely added to commercial mealie-meal, wheat flour, sausages, polony and milk products.’|
Sampa told the parliamentary committee headed by Dr Brian Chituwo, who sat with three fellow parliamentarians that, ‘The quantities of soya in these various forms being consumed in Zambia is many times higher than in the traditional Asian diets aside from the latter also being mostly fermented types. Fermentation is more effective in removing the soya toxins other than the roasting or boiling, which is being practiced by the food industry in Zambia’. He cautioned that the, ‘Consequences of the lax in legislative oversight in the food processing industry, is that the nation is experiencing a rapid increase of cases of leukemia, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke in addition to the high rates of breast and cervical cancer’.
|Explaining the research|
|Martin Sampa was the only witness to giving testimony before the Parliamentary Committee on the morning of February 1. During the hearing Hon Chifita Matafwali, Bangweulu MP asked him how he had conducted his research. Hon Likando Mufalali, Senanga MP wanted to know if there were|
other countries that consumed soya beans in the same quantities as Zambia and what were the imbalance in the body if any?
‘The research is evidence based. There is no conclusion which is being given here without giving a reference. So, this is a Meta analysis. You can’t take a human being and start experimenting on him.’ Sampa said that human studies were not allowed on ethical grounds. Therefore, he ‘looked at the disease pattern over a period of time.
‘They are not communicable diseases, in other words, you don’t pass breast cancer or diabetes to the next person, it is not sexual transmitted or airborne. The only alternative when you get such high levels of diseases incidences is to look at the diet and ask what has changed in the diet
which could be an indicator of what is happening now? How far do we look back, is it 5 or 10 years prior to this situation? Because these cancers were not common in our own time as they are common now.’ Other trends, Sampa told the parliamentary committee show that these diseases are more common in urban than in the rural areas.
‘When we accumulate evidence on that, then you refer back to parallel countries, in 2005, the Ministry of Health in Israel issued a directive that soya products should not be fed to children under the age of 18. Obviously there was a strong scientific basis for that, they didn’t fully release what the directive was all about but it is in effect up to date.‘In Germany soya milk is given to infants who are allergic to cows’ milk, and in cases were the mother is unable to breastfeed. However, this is done under prescription from a medical doctor and yet, in Zambia anyone can walk into a shop, purchase soya milk and start giving it to a child.’ The reason Germany prohibits soya milk to infants was due to the high estrogen levels found in it, which is equivalent to a child taking 5 birth control pills and yet a woman only takes a single pill daily.
Sampa said the Chinese community who are the pioneers of using soya used it as a fertilizer crop. Eventually, they worked out a way of removing the toxins and started fermenting it. They consume it in small quantities equivalent to how Zambian consume chili. ‘What we have done is, we have adopted food from Asia which is eaten as a condiment in small quantities and brought it here and made it a multipurpose to cure everything.
‘We are abusing the food… Even the Americans are given indicators that you can’t consume this quantity of soya but in Zambia we are consuming almost 10 times above the allowed quantity. As a consequence of this there are hormonal changes, which are unpredictable.’ Women Sampa said grow breads while men develop breasts. Sampa argues that if soya is indeed a health product that had no side effects, developed countries would not
|Soya consumption is driven by commercial entities|
|He said Zambia’s consumption of soya beans is being driven by commercial entities. He exhibited numerous products sold in supermarkets and groceries that contain soya.|
Reading the labeling on some of these products Sampa pointed out misleading ‘health claims’ which he said might induce ‘innocent people’ to buy them. ‘This is false adverting.’ In addition he illustrated that some of the products do not mention soya on the labels but specify it as E322, a description most people would not recognize to mean soya.
Sampa’s presentation seemed to indicate that just looking at the local soya production and consumption is not adequate as Zambians are consuming large quantities of imported products which contain soya. He said that while the recommended intake of soya is less than 45 grams daily, ‘it is completely surpassed by the many sources of soya that somebody is eating’, therefore ‘beyond certain levels it becomes toxic’. Sampa said soya’s estrogen is the same as the estrogens found in women.
‘On one side it’s part of health but estrogen also have been recognized as one of the biggest risk factors in breast cancer.
The isoflavones, which are in soya, are the culprits.’ When pressed by Dr Chituwo to show more human research which could have shown an appreciable difference in the health for instance, between a group of people that grew up on beans against another that has grown up eating soya, Sampa said two senior American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists, Daniel Sheehan and Daniel Doerge, both specialists
in estrogen research have already done research on animals.
He said they wrote a letter challenging claims that soya is healthy. ‘We oppose this health claim because there is abundant evidence that some of the isoflavones found in soya includes genistein and econo a metabolize of daidzen, demonstrates toxicity in estrogen sensitive tissues and in the thyroid. This is true for a number of species including humans. Taken together, the findings presented here are self-consistent and demonstrate that genistein and other isoflavones found in soya can have adverse effects in a number of species including humans. Animal studies are the frontline in evaluating toxicity as they predict with good accuracy adverse effects in humans.’
Sampa said despite the American scientist’s finding with the availability of research funding he could still follow up the research in Zambia in areas where we are lacking in the oversight.
|Question and answer – whose agenda could Sampa be pushing?|
|During the morning’s hearing, Sampa requested to answer some questions in camera as he believe that some of the issues raised by the parliamentarians bordered on national security.|
However, the visibly reassuring chair, Dr Chituwo, assured Sampa of immunity while testifying before the committee thus ensuring that the public and media present could have a full understanding of the presentation. With this encouragement Sampa answering questions raised by Hon Mungi Habenzu, Chikankata MP and Hon Mufalali on whether people should stop consuming soya and if government should ban its consumption in Zambia, appealed to the committee to invoke the ‘precautionary principle’.
‘We are not setting a precedent as other countries in the EU already have these regulations in place. So we need to follow the precautionary principal and say, until this is fully studied and understood, at least for children, we can follow the examples of were they are not allowing children under the age of 18 to have access to soya.’ Sampa told the committee that boarding students were particularly at risk ‘because they are in the developmental stages’ and are consuming soya at breakfast through porridge, at lunch through relish and nshima and at supper in chunks.
Hon Mufalali wanted assurance that the presentation Sampa was making was not part of a political, economic or social war agenda aimed at
misinformation due to the rise in competition. ‘What assurance is there that you are not part of a global campaign against soya?’ ‘I am quite aware that soya has a very big lobby. We are talking about Monsanto. We are talking about huge interests; it even pertains to GMO foods because most of the soya now is GMO.’
Sampa contended that his interest is motivated by his research which indicates that our high intake of soya products causes diseases. He gave the example of the consumption of cooking oil, a 750ml bottle, ‘is supposed to be consumed by a family of 6 over a period of one month …yet it is consumed in 2 to 3 days. When you are using oils like sunflower, the body will withstand that abuse. But when you make the mistake of using soya with its toxicity, you can imagine what it is doing to our families,’ he said.
‘The disease burden, which the country is facing at the moment, is beyond normal levels. Strokes are now common occurrences. Every other person has high blood pressure; the other one has diabetes and so on. It smacks as something of a conspiracy but we don’t want to go into those. It is better to have something based on evidence and there is sufficient evidence on soya beans that we are abusing, and at the same time we are seeing the repercussions now.’
Hon Habenzu said Sampa’s findings were ‘worrying’. Pointing to a product displayed he said ‘It is a substitute for meat in the compounds like Kanyama and other areas.
|Silent regulatory bodies – food is national security|
|Hon Mufalali asked Sampa if he thought they are enough regulatory bodies that are qualified to check these (imported and local) items displayed, so that they can be able to control or protect the citizenry from toxics that could be contained in them. Naming a milling company, Sampa alluded to the fact that the current mealie meal we buy from this company is mixed with soya bean.|
‘Nobody controls that. They are adding soya beans without asking for anybody’s permission to do that. You can’t tamper with our staple food. If I go to buy mealie-meal it should be mealie-meal. State security is at risk because we have opened up the food industry to foreign companies and anybody with any agenda. ‘In western governments there are protective bodies for this because, when you are talking about food and national security, food is actually national security.
‘An oversight body should be part of the Zambia Intelligence Service as a wing so that we are able to monitor (our food) because this now pertains to biological warfare. You come and poison food, people die slowly and they won’t trace it back to the food they are eating.
‘You can not exclude genocide because some of these things are pertaining on genocide. When somebody consumes soya, the effects are seen 20 years from the time they consume it. And it’s also passed on through genetics. The offspring will have that effect of something, which they didn’t
directly consume themselves. That’s how serious the situation of soya is.’ What was alarming to hear is that the firm or individuals involved in manufacturing these products could be immune from prosecution due to the lack of legislation. Sampa reiterated that due to the regulatory systems in the European Union, food packages must state the ingredients in each food. This is not done in Zambia and when it is, it is misleading.
He told the committee that more scrutiny and control of packaged foods was required. He said existing bodies like the Zambia Bureau of Standards will take a product and match the list of ingredients on the package with the analysis. ‘When that is satisfied, as far as they are concerned, it is ok.’ They do not look at the quantities of ingredients or its effects in the context of our Zambian diet.
‘It is important that the committee also considers how we can extend and build the capacity to monitor what is coming into the country because at the moment we are very vulnerable.’ Sampa said treatment for cancer was ‘largely if not exclusively focused on the various cutting edge medical
techniques however, his submission seems to suggest that Zambia should look at the diet to prevent and minimize the increase of cancers and other diseases on the population.
His testimony was a call that ‘prevention is better than cure’ and maybe even more importantly ‘buyer beware’.