In recent times, concerns have been raised in some quarters about the alleged use of steroids in the poultry industry — particularly in relation to eggs — and their potential effects on human health.
Hogwash, says the Institution of Veterinarians of Poultry Industry (IVPI), Karnataka, as it comes down strongly on such misconceptions.
And it has stepped forward to clarify that these claims are ill-informed — and aimed at creating unnecessary fear among consumers.
A letter from the IVPI’s president, Prof G Devegowda, circulated on social media and to the press, was clear: “There are concerns being raised that the poultry industry uses different steroids and consumption of such type of egg is one of the reasons for early puberty. Please note that chickens produce more eggs because of scientific breeding programmes, genetics make-up, quality nutrition, hygienic management, and 24/7 care by qualified poultry veterinarians.”
Also Read: Karnataka panel recommends 5 eggs a week for malnourished kids
Are eggs loaded with steroids?
Speaking to South First, Prof Devegowda, also Emeritus Professor of University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) in Bengaluru, said that, time and again, teachers, doctors, and elders in households have — without proper scientific reasoning — helped spread such misconceptions.
The association has tried it’s best to debunk them, he said, adding that it is of utmost importance to counter false information that hinders the consumption of highly nutritious foods.
It is crucial to address these misconceptions and highlight the importance of consuming eggs as a vital — and cheap — source of nutrition, particularly in the context of combating malnourishment, he added.
“Please note that steroids are not fed or injected in any poultry farms in our country. Steroids are never used to increase egg production in chickens,” assured the professor who has been teaching and researching Poultry Science at the UAS for 40 years.
The IVPI, comprising 250 poultry veterinarians specialising in all aspects of poultry production, stands behind Prof Devegowda’s statement.
It has challenged anyone to provide evidence of steroid-use in egg production on any poultry farm in India, as well as published research in peer-reviewed journals supporting such claims.
Also Read: Experts slam NEP suggestion that eggs cause disorders
Hormones are illegal: Devegowda
“In a nation grappling with the persistent challenge of malnourishment, repeated attempts are unfortunately being made to stop the consumption of eggs by people, especially children,” Devegowda told South First,
He said that the IVPI had earlier also announced rewards to those who could point to at least one such farm in Karnataka or India where steroids were being injected into eggs.
He said that, contrary to popular belief, hormone-use is illegal not only in the US, but also in many other countries, including India. Strict controls are in place to prohibit the supplementation of hormones in animal feeds and their use in poultry is not approved.
What is more, hormones are in fact ineffective in promoting growth in chickens, both in terms of their effectiveness and the economic viability of their administration.
Also Read: Holding a mirror to Karnataka govt on nutrition in the state
Is it safe to eat eggs?
The Karnataka Poultry Association has emphasised that the false notion that eggs contain added hormones or steroids should not deter consumers from enjoying their highly nutritious and affordable benefits.
Prof Devegowda said that the low consumption of eggs in India, averaging only 90 eggs per person per year, has been identified as one of the contributing factors to malnutrition.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein and vital nutrients, including Vitamin B12 that has a “scarce presence” in vegetarian foods. It is worth noting that India even exports eggs and egg powder to numerous countries.
Agreeing with this, Dr Sudhir Kumar, Consultant Neurologist, Apollo Hospitals Hyderabad, said that eggs are generally healthy and are considered a whole food as it provides protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.
There is no doubt about egg whites being a good source of proteins. However, there are some arguments on whether eating egg yolk can raise cholesterol levels or not.
“Though the final word is not yet out on this, one can safely eat one egg with the yolk daily. For greater protein requirement, additional eggs can only be consumed without the yolk,” he added.
Eggs should be an integral part of any balanced healthy diet, he stressed.
“There is no truth in the statement that girls who consume more eggs or a diet rich in protein experience early onset of puberty,” Dr Sudhir Kumar told South First.
Also Read: Malnutrition cuts across social classes in India
Misconceptions drive malnutrition
Irked by repeated misconceptions and promotions of such false narratives, Dr Sylvia Karpagam, public health doctor and researcher who is part of the “Right to Nutrition” and “Right to Health” campaigns, said, “People who hold positions of power like elected representatives, teachers, doctors, bureaucrats, judiciary, etc, should be much more scientific in their approach to nutrition.”
Citing an example, she said that a position paper in Karnataka called “Health and Wellbeing” to implement the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, used all kinds of absurd propaganda to prevent eggs in the Mid-Day Meal Scheme for children, even going to the extent of saying that Indian’s natural choice of food is plant-based, unlike Western food choice.
“This argument is ridiculous on many fronts because Indians are no strangers to meat and it is hardly a ‘Western food choice’,” she added.
“The people who raise concerns about eggs being ‘unhealthy’ have no qualms about the alarming rate of malnutrition in the country?” she questioned.
Also Read: Nutritious food only way to ensure food security: Kerala CM
The barriers to healthy foods in India, especially for children from vulnerable communities, are huge, she said.
She added that the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) should move out from hosting plant-based, corporate-led initiatives like the Eat Lancet Commission report and focus on making foods safe for communities to consume, irrespective of their social location or paying abilities.
Meanwhile, upset with the “vegetarian Savarnas”, Dr Veena Shatrugna, former deputy director at the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, said, “These people are trivialising children’s nutrition. If they are concerned, they can do their homework. Aren’t they worried about the fact that children are starved of proteins and eat cereal rice or roti with onion, chillies, and rasam every day?”
She goes on: “Do they know that rice and wheat, and vegetables and fruits are grown using tonnes of pesticides? Or that their Maggie, biscuits, and processed foods have high sugar, salt and fats? That soya is a GM (genetically modified) food and cause allergies? That milk is adulterated? Turmeric has metallic yellow? If they are concerned about food safety standards, they must write to FSSAI and not question a childs right to eat.”