Sustainable halal food industry

October 26th, 2016

ON many occasions, Malaysian Muslim consumers have been called to boycott certain popular household food products.

Reasons for the boycott may be caused by either non-halal ingredients used in the food products or that the products are made by countries which support the oppression of fellow Muslims worldwide.

Such a reaction has become typical for Malaysian Muslims over the years – an immediate response driven by emotion as soon as the issue hits the headlines.

But the zeal fizzles out when the issue no longer hogs the limelight.

However, do we ever consider or plan out anything that could provide us with a far more sustainable solution that could benefit the Muslim ummah (community) in preparing itself to be self-sustaining in its food supply?

Most of the foods we consume today are the result of extensive research and development in the interrelated fields of food science and technology, which eventually contributes to the food industry – arguably the largest global manufacturing industry in the world, dominated by large multinational corporations.

With in-depth knowledge and expertise in food science and technology, a variety of safe, affordable, and tasty food products can be produced and accepted as popular global household products.

As society evolves over time, food scientists and technologists around the world continuously work to improve the quality of human life by searching for new and better ways of selecting, preserving, processing, packaging and distributing food products, as well as discovering new possible food sources.

Invariably, the global food system grows in size and complexity, with the growth in the worldwide population and Gross Domestic Product, the urbanisation process, the increase in wealth and the way we work and live, all of which leads to different food and eating habits.

The growing demand for more modern food varieties, such as pre-packaged food, is the trend observed today.

Due to changing habits, the global food industry is not the same as it was decades ago, when sources of raw materials were based purely on agricultural activities.

Undoubtedly, the proliferation of modern technology has revolutionised the global food industry and it has become more technology-savvy and knowledge-driven, rather than through the sweat and hard labour we knew before.

Our food today is largely not the product of farmers or fishermen, but rather the products of highly knowledgeable and professional food scientists and technologists.


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Act on air pollution, the silent killer

October 24th, 2016

Curb the problem for it kills eight million people yearly worldwide and is also the main cause of climate change.

WHAT causes as many or more deaths in Malaysia as road accidents but has not been known to be such a dangerous killer?

Air pollution.

This “killer” is not as dramatic or visible as car crashes, but is even more dangerous as it penetrates and contaminates our vital organs, leading to serious diseases and thousands of death.

Outdoor air pollution caused 6,251 deaths in Malaysia in 2012, according to a recent report by the World Health Organisation.

The deaths were due to heart disease (3,630), stroke (1773), lung cancer (670), pulmonary disease (148) and lower respiratory disease (29).

In 2013, road accidents killed 7,129 people in Malaysia, slightly more than the outdoor air pollution figure for 2012.

But the WHO study does not include indoor or household air pollution, which may have harmed many more people. If the deaths from this were known and added, the total deaths caused by air pollution overall would almost certainly be higher than those caused by road accidents.

It is timely to get these new details on the serious health effects of air pollution.

Malaysians have been enduring the effects of the annual “haze” caused by burning in forest and agriculture areas in Indonesia. Memories of the misery this caused in 2015 are still fresh. Fortunately, the haze has been largely absent so far this year.

WHO estimates that 4.3 million die prematurely each year from indoor pollution, and 3.7 million from outdoor pollution.

And 92% of people in the world live in places that do not meet the WHO health standard for outdoor air quality.

The WHO report, Ambient air pollution: A global assessment for exposure and burden of disease, is based on satellite data and ground station monitors for more than 3,000 rural and urban locations.

The figures for Malaysia show that the country has a PM2.5 annual median concentration of 15 (ranging from 9 to 24) micrograms per cubic metre. This is 50% above the WHO’s guideline limit of 10.

By comparison, other Asian countries had the following air pollution levels: China (54), India (62), Thailand (25), Singapore (17) and Indonesia (14).

The PM2.5 level is the annual median concentration of particulate matter of a diameter less than 2.5 micrometres. PM2.5 includes pollutants such as sulphate, nitrates and black carbon, which penetrate deep into the lungs and in the cardiovascular system, posing the greatest health risks.

Due to the premature deaths, Malaysia also suffered 160,693 years of life lost in 2012, attributable to outdoor air pollution, according to the WHO report.

The adverse effects of this hidden killer have been growing fast (8% increase in deaths from 2008 to 2013). It was responsible for one out of every nine deaths (11.6% of the total) in the world in 2012, according to WHO. That makes it one of the top causes of deaths globally.

The air-pollution related deaths worldwide were due to ischaemic heart diseases and strokes (72%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or acute lower respiratory infections (14%) and lung cancer (14%) in 2012.

Ninety percent of the deaths are in developing countries and two out of three occur in our neighbourhood – the Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific regions.

Countering air pollution should thus be a top priority. What should be done? First, collect more details through improvements in monitoring air pollution and its effects.

Second, make the public more aware so they can take action to avoid being exposed.

Third, and most important, identify the causes of the pollution and take action to eliminate or reduce them.

Among the causes of outdoor air pollution are emissions from transport vehicles, coal-fired power plants, industrial factories, burning of wastes, and fires in forest and agricultural areas. Indoor pollution is mainly caused by the use of cooking fuels based on wood and coal.


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One shot, two many

October 24th, 2016

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry has directed all health clinics to avoid giving babies two types of immunisation jabs on the same day.

Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said immunisation shots were supposed to be given one at a time at intervals outlined in the National Immunisation Schedule.

“Giving two jabs at the same time happens when the immunisation schedule is breached,” he said, calling on parents to strictly abide by the national immunisation schedule.

However, in cases where they may have missed the schedule, parents could discuss with healthcare personnel to re-schedule the immunisation date to ensure only one jab was given per session, he said.

“We have informed healthcare personnel in clinics of this,” he said.

Dr Lokman said this in response to pleas by parents who claimed that their children became autistic after being administered with two types of vaccine on the same day when they were 18 months old.

He pointed out that there were no scientific evidence linking autism to MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

According to the current immunisation schedule in Malaysia, children at the age of 18 months were given a single shot of five-in-one vaccine DTaP-Hib/IPV (difteria, tetanus, pertusis, hemophillus influenza B and Polio).

“It is given in a single jab. This is the same vaccine given at the age of two months, three months and five months.

“Therefore, there is no association between the vaccine given at the age of 18 months and autism,” he said.

Dr Lokman said attempts to link MMR immunisation to autism were made based on evidence reported by Dr Andrew Wakefield in a 1998 study published in theLancet medical journal.

However, the Lancet had in 2004 retracted the interpretation of the Wakefield report, and subsequently retracted the entire report in 2010 on grounds of insufficient data, as the study was based only on 12 children.

Dr Lokman noted that a study conducted between 1988 and 1996 in Yokohama, Japan, on 31,426 children showed that the number of autism cases did not drop despite a drop in MMR immunisation rate.

“The study also showed a significant increase in autism cases, especially after 1993.

“In Malaysia, a study conducted in five districts between 2005 and 2006 showed there were two cases of autism for every 1,000 children aged between 18 months and three years.

“This is within the global range of one to six cases among every 1,000 children,” he said.

The Health Ministry had started collecting specific data on autism since 2004, he said.

“Within 12 years from between 2004 and 2015, we have identified 1,808 autism cases involving children below the age of seven,” Dr Lokman said.

Meanwhile, Persama (Pertubuhan Sayang Malaysia) Together For Autism founder Thila Laxshman said many parents in the group had similar experience whereby their children became autistic after getting two injections of vaccines on the same day.

After the injections, the children had fever and subsequently stopped talking, lost eye contact, had difficulty sleeping at night and threw tantrums to the point of meltdown.

“Our children were born normal but developed brain development disorders after the injections,” she said.

Thila, who is a singer, called on the authorities to seriously look into the possible link between autism and double vaccination.

A couple, Felix Edward Wilson and his wife Agnes Nathan, said their son Kevin became autistic after receiving two jabs of different types of vaccines at the age of two.

“Our son was born normal. He was able to string words into sentences at the age of eight months. He could sing nursery rhymes.

“Even before the age of one, he could tell the difference between a purse and a wallet.

“After the double vaccine shots, he lost his ability to talk. There was no more eye contact,” said Felix of his son, who is now 19.


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Use allocation to improve teachers’ English, says Melta

October 24th, 2016

PETALING JAYA: A portion of the RM90mil allocated for enhancing English language proficiency in Budget 2017 should be used to train teachers.

Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (Melta) president Prof Dr S. Ganakumaran told The Star that teachers must be fluent in the language first before students’ command of English could be improved through Science and Mathematics.

The RM90mil provision is allo­cated specifically for Cambridge English, Dual Language and Highly Immersive programmes.

“For schools to carry out the Dual Language Programme (DLP), their teachers would need to prepare lessons in both Bahasa Melayu and English, as well as bilingual examinations and tests.

“Teachers will need additional support,” Prof Ganakumaran said.

Under the DLP, schools will be given the option to teach Science, Mathematics, Information and Communications Technology, and Design and Technology in English or Bahasa Malaysia.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon earlier announced that 841 schools were expected to implement the DLP next year, but the total had not been finalised as there were schools appealing for inclusion into the programme.

Last year, a sum of RM135mil was allocated in Budget 2016 to increase proficiency in both Bahasa Malaysia and English.


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Sabah loses RM64mil per year to power theft

October 24th, 2016

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) loses about RM64 mil per year to power thefts in the state.

SESB Asset Management senior general manager Muhamad Nazri Pazil said these losses are mainly due to illegal power connections at squatter colonies statewide.

“There is an estimated 178, 000 of squatter houses in Sabah and almost all of them are believed to connect electricity illegally,” he said following a two-day operation against illegal power connections in Sandakan.

He said such incidences also contribute to the unstable power supply to paying users, especially at areas near squatter colonies.

The crackdown on Oct 22 and 23 at the Batu Sapi and Batu 3 squatter colonies saw some 300kg of wires seized.

“Similar operations to disconnect illegal power connection and power thefts will be carried out continuously,” Muhamad said.


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Graduates Need To Master Skills Along With Knowledge – Perlis Raja Muda

October 24th, 2016

News Pic

ARAU, Oct 23 (Bernama) — Graduates must arm themselves with a variety of skills and have high competitiveness in addition to having excellent qualifications, said Raja Muda of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Faizzuddin Putra Jamalullail .

He said the knowledge acquired at university is based on the subjects majored in and at the same time they must also have skills proficiency to be competent graduates.

“In the past, when the world economy was growing, vocations were ready and waiting for graduates. However, today the situation has changed where it’s the graduates who must hunt for jobs.

“Today the labour market has also changed and wants a flexible and multi-tasking workforce in the employment sector,” he said.

He was speaking at the third session of the 11th convocation of Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) held at Dewan Ilmu, UniMAP Main Campus, Pauh Putra, here today.

Also present was Raja Puan Muda of Perlis, Tuanku Hajah Lailatul Shahreen Akashah Khalil.

Earlier, Tuanku Syed Faizuddin received the instruments of appointment as chancellor of UniMAP for the fourth time effective Dec 13, presented by the chairman of the UniMAP Board of Directors, Datuk Prof Emeritus Dr Zainal Mohamed.


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Champs for a green cause

October 23rd, 2016
Students from SMK Agama Putrajaya celebrate after being named the Pahlawan Planet champion.

Students from SMK Agama Putrajaya celebrate after being named the Pahlawan Planet champion.

TREAT Every Environment Special (TrEES) and Procter & Gamble Malaysia (P&G) through their innovative home-to-school recycling and advocacy campaign, Pahlawan Planet, yielded a combined weight of 134,400 kg of recyclables across Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Putrajaya and Negri Sembilan.

Thirty five selected secondary schools out of the initial 53 schools, exceeded the campaign target by reaching out to 22,947 households within two months.

The Pahlawan Planet campaign was an integral part of TrEES Young Voices for Conservation 2016, which was approved by the Education Ministry as a national level co-curriculum programme for secondary schools and supported by the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry.

The campaign was designed for secondary school students to educate, cultivate and reinforce a culture of caring for the environment by embracing the 4Rs (Rethink, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) at home and in school.

Through the campaign, the students learned that any small action can contribute significantly in reducing their impact and ecological footprint.

The total recyclables collected through the campaign was equivalent to saving 3.24 million litres of water, 569,951 kWH of energy and 205,877 litres of oil.

The paper collection of 122,300 kg also saved 2,078 trees that can absorb 13,893 kg of carbon dioxide and produce enough oxygen for 6,235 people each year.

“The Pahlawan Planet campaign reinforced P&G’s commitment to sustainability by empowering students as advocates and effective role models to protect the environment and reduce waste to landfill in Malaysia.

“More importantly, students who participated have gained skills beyond the classroom and the campaign can be implemented independently by the schools in the future to continue this sustainable lifestyle,” said P&G Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Communications and Government Relations leader Nadiah Syed Nahar.

Based on their overall performance throughout the campaign execution, 23 schools were selected to advance to the final stage.

At this stage the student project teams were required to make a presentation to a panel of independent judges.

To determine the overall winners, the schools were then assessed on different aspects of their recycling collection, implementation of their recycling projects and outreach campaigns, report writing, financial reporting, communications as well as their presentations to the judges.

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Special kids present musical

October 23rd, 2016
The children from Taarana School perform a traditional dance with their teachers.

The children from Taarana School perform a traditional dance with their teachers.

HOLDING their concert for the fifth year running, the special needs children from Taarana School put on a spectacular show for their families and well-wishers.

Under the theme, “Cultural Unity” theme, the students went all out with traditional dances.

More than 300 attended the event held at the SJK (C) Chung Kwo auditorium in Kuala Lumpur.

The children’s entertaining performance on stage showed those present what they were capable of.

The Taarana School was established by Vijayaratnam Foundation in 2010 as an educational centre for children with special education needs. The centre is located in Petaling Jaya, Selangor with an enrolment of 42 children.

The Vijayaratnam Foundation is the Malaysian Chapter of the RYTHM Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of the Qi Group of Companies.

“The students here have been working diligently to put on a good performance for their loved ones during this concert.

“We are very proud of how far they have come, clearly through their dedication towards making this concert a success,” said Vijayaratnam Association chairperson Datin Seri Umayal Eswaran.

She said Taarana hopes to assist the children to assimilate into society and to learn how to be independent.

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Raising learning and teaching levels

October 23rd, 2016

IN a move to raise educational standards in South-East Asia, Oxford International AQA Examinations (Oxford AQA Exams) is introducing its international qualifications in this region, starting with Malaysia.

Oxford AQA exams is a joint venture between Oxford University Press, a department of the University of Oxford, and AQA – UK’s largest provider of academic qualifications.

The partnership aims to offer a valid and reliable accrediting learning, which in turn, will support the ambitions of millions of people across the world in their pursuit of good education.

“Both Oxford and AQA have a shared mission to see young people develop, and what better way to do this than to improve education through teaching, learning and assessment.

“As such, we want to deliver high quality English medium qualifications for the growing number of international students attending schools teaching a British curriculum,” said AQA chief executive Andrew Hall.

He added that Malaysia has a fantastic reputation as a global hub for education.

“Malaysia has made a name for itself building up programmes in the country for its students and attracting students from the wider region as well.

Malaysia has a fantastic reputation as a global hub for education, says Hall.

Malaysia has a fantastic reputation as a global hub for education, says Hall.

“Students no longer need to travel to classical destinations like the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, but instead, can stay closer to home and benefit from the same standards and outcomes in terms of education.

“We not only want to deliver our qualifications, but also be part of Malaysia’s educational support network to help the teachers progress and develop,” Hall explained.

Oxford AQA Exams will provide international GCSEs, AS and A-Levels in English, Math and Sciences, at the same time, offering additional qualifications in Business, Computer Science, Geo-graphy, Psychology and Individual Project Qualification (IPQ) – a research-based qualification, to prepare students for university.

The qualifications are aligned to many of the latest UK reforms including the new 9-1 grading system for the GCSEs, replacing the current A*-G grades, with 9 being the highest grade achievable.

Grading system

According to Hall, the new grading system will have a better differentiation between the students’ abilities and achievements in each subject.

“Strong students will stand out for their efforts, compared with just having a large number of students achieving A. The key thing is to have a more accurate representation of the students’ capabilities,” said Hall.

“The Oxford AQA Exams qualifications are based on UK GCSEs, AS and A-Levels, which were developed by more than 1,500 teachers, subject specialists and university academics, with content crafted to ensure aptness for students living outside the UK.


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Creating awareness on autism

October 23rd, 2016
Umar performed at the launch of the campaign.

Umar performed at the launch of the campaign.

RAISING an autistic child can be an uphill battle. Apart from the emotional upheavals and costly therapies, families also have to deal with social stigmas and misconceptions, often leaving their child vulnerable to rejection and bullying.

Hoping to end misconceptions and raise awareness of this, CCM Pharmaceuticals Sdn Bhd (CCMP)’s CHAMPS health supplements launched the ‘Building Love Starts Young’ campaign in partnership with the National Autism Society of Malaysia (Nasom).

The campaign, which aimed to nurture love for children with autism and improve the public’s perception and interaction with those who are autistic, raised a total of RM44,217.50 throughout the campaign period from April to June, 2016.

Speaking at the campaign’s cheque presentation ceremony, Chemical Company of Malaysia Berhad (CCM)’s group managing director Leonard Ariff Abdul Shatar commended Nasom for establishing a platform to support the needs of autistic children and adults in the country.

“We are honoured to partner Nasom to promote greater awareness of autism in the country,” he added.

Nasom chairman Feilina S Y Muhammad Feisol thanked CCM for the generous donation, which will fund in-depth training sessions for teachers and help accommodate more students in its early intervention programme.

“Nasom currently has 20 centres across Malaysia, which supports hundreds of students from as young as three to 36 years of age.

“With limited resources and 159 teachers, the waiting list at our centres is quite long.

“Through CCM’s support, we hope to accommodate more students,” said Feilina who has a 19-year-old autistic son.

Among the beneficiaries of Nasom’s early intervention programme is 18-year-old Umar Hasfizal.

Diagnosed with autism when he was just two years old, Umar has since shown impressive development

through the programme.

“Umar showed distinctive signs of autism from a tender age, often avoiding eye contact and found it

difficult to interact with others.

“Upon his diagnosis, my wife and I were in the dark for almost six months, trying to understand and come to terms with what autism was all about,” said Umar’s father, Hasfizal Mukhtar.

Fortunately, Umar was accepted into Nasom’s early intervention programme at the age of three. With the help from teachers and his peers, he assimilated well into the mainstream school system and sat for his SPM examinations last year.

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