World

South Pacific islanders aim to ban imported junk food to boost health

A province in the South Pacific ocean nation of Vanuatu is looking to ban foreign food - particularly Western junk food - in an effort to ward off potential health issues among islanders.

Torba province plans to go entirely organic by 2020 and has already ordered tourism bungalows to serve guests only locally-sourced, organic produce.

Torba province, which consists of two main islands, aims to impose restrictions on the import of foreign foodstuff and instead rely on its productive agricultural land and rich natural resources, according to a report in the Guardian.

Located in the northern part of Vanuatu, Torba is often described as the "forgotten province" and the majority of its 10,000 people are farmers.

Father Luc Dini, a community leader and head of the local tourism council, said a ban on imported food would improve the health and well-being of islanders.

"At the moment, we have an infiltration of junk food from overseas," he told the Guardian.

"It is easy to boil noodles or rice, but they have almost no nutritional value and there is no need to eat imported food when we have so much local food grown organically on our islands."

GO LOCAL

Mr Dini said his province has an abundance of locally grown or sourced food, such as seafood, yams and pineapples, to sustain its population.

Popular imported foods in Torba include rice, sweets, canned fish and biscuits.

"We are Vanuatu's most isolated province and so far our health has stayed pretty good because of that, but we want to continue to be healthy," he said.

"In other provinces that have adopted Western diets, you see pretty young girls but when they smile, they have rotten teeth, because the sugar has broken down their teeth.

"We don't want that to happen here and we don't want to develop the illnesses that come with a Western junk food diet."

With the backing of local chiefs, Mr Dini plans to introduce legislation within the next two years banning the importation of all foreign food.

He said the central government in Port Vila supports his plan and is keen to observe the reaction by locals and visitors.

"If you really want to live on a paradise of your own, then you should make do with what you have and try and live with nature," he said. 
- THE STRAITS TIMES

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