“An insult to restaurant owners”: PAS MP flayed by netizens over cancer, autism remark

A PAS lawmaker continues to draw ire online for claiming that “low-quality” food could expose people to various medical conditions, including cancer and autism.

While debating the royal address in Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday (Feb 14), Dr Halimah Ali said while she is supportive of the Menu Rahmah concept and its mission to provide affordable meals to the B40 group, she did not want low-quality food to threaten the health and safety of the public.

“As much as I support the Menu Rahmah movement, I do not want the B40 group to be exposed to diseases like cancer, autoimmune diseases, or autism,” she said in a video of her speech that went viral on social media.

The Kapar MP had since told reporters that her remarks had been misunderstood, pointing out that the message she had wanted to convey was that the poor quality of raw materials used by restaurants for Menu Rahmah could lead to the meal’s quality being compromised.

“We are saying to the government, if you are desperate, do not forsake nutrition. How do you provide good quality food at a low price?” she was quoted as saying by Malay Mail yesterday.

Netizens were, however, less forgiving, with many calling her remarks an insult to the government’s initiative and asking the lawmaker to clarify the relationship between food and autism.

User @evertayc commented:

(Which medical research said unhealthy food can cause autism? It’s clear that Dr Halimah is just saying this to portray Menu Rahmah in a negative light. Furthermore I see that mostly Menu Rahmah comes complete with vegetables, protein and carbohydrate. How is this not healthy?)

Echoing the user, @ih_tr said:

(There are so many types of unhealthy food out there that are being sold rampantly, including nuggets and burgers. But why did Dr Halimah keep mum? Menu Rahmah is a simple and balanced meal that is meant to help those in need. Dr Halimah should be supporting this admirable endeavour)

User @oreo_koshka27 said:

(Medical degree? We dare you to make a nutritional study of the menu and prove that it can cause cancer, autism, etc. If you want to say something like this, use data from research that is specific to Menu Rahmah, otherwise you are a liar)

Meanwhile, user @lady_bugg11 said:

(The PAS leader has insulted Menu Rahmah. This is an insult to restaurant owners who took the effort to prepare Menu Rahmah. If you don’t want to consume such meals that’s your problem but don’t insult poor people like us. Not everybody is well off like this PAS leader)

Meanwhile, user @deejahmama said:

(Cause for autism? My child is autistic and is this because I did not feed my child nutritious food? I have never given my child anything that is not nutritious. As a mother to an autistic child I feel that the accusation is an insult)

Dr Halimah’s comment had also prompted Mydin hypermarket to clarify on Twitter that the affordable meals provided by Mydin via the Menu Rahmah initiative is a balanced and nutritious meal:

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii had also taken to Twitter to seek clarification about co-relation between food and autisim:

In response, @BSooyaa confirmed:

(No, there is no evidence that food can trigger autism. Autism is an X-linked recessive genetic disorder which can only be inherited either from a silent carrier mom or affected dad. Autism exists since birth and it’s not something caused by the sudden consumption of Menu Rahmah)

Menu Rahmah was launched on January 31 by Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub as part of the unity government’s short-term efforts to mitigate the inflation squeeze on low-income earners.

Around 12,000 premises are currently offering Menu Rahmah, including restaurants affiliated with the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association, the Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association, Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association and Mydin supermarket outlets nationwide. – Feb 17, 2023


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