Fortified foods to save millions

Source: “Fortified foods to save millions” in the Daily News

MORE than half a million children under the age of five have died in Tanzania in the past decade as a result of inadequate nutrition, but a new joint project with some Waterloo roots will increase access to one important micronutrient and potentially save lives.
Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), the University of Waterloo and Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania, just launched a two-and-a-half-year project aimed at reducing vitamin A deficiency using fortified foods.

“This initiative works with local processors to crush locally grown sunflower seed and produce vitamin A sunflower oil to address local micronutrient deficiencies,” said Thom Dixon, director, business of health at MEDA and one of the project’s principal investigators.

A statement posted online by the Waterloo University this week said in Tanzania, about a third of all children under the age of five and women under age of 50 suffer from vitamin A deficiency.

“In many rural areas, diets are lacking in basic micronutrients needed to build strong immune systems and fight disease and vitamin A is a particular challenge in selected regions of our country,” said Prof Theobald Mosha, professor of human nutrition and public health, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, SUA and one of the principal investigators.

To promote the new fortified oil, an innovative electronic voucher developed in Canada will deliver subsidies to people in targeted communities and help foster demand.

“This project is expected to increase food security and encourage local economic growth by using a locally produced crop, processed at local businesses and sold in local retailers,” said Prof Susan Horton, CIGI chair in global health economics, University of Waterloo and the third principal investigator of the project.

The project supports the Tanzanian government’s national food fortification campaign, launched in 2013 to increase access to these enhanced foods.

Canada’s International Development Research Centre and Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada funded this initiative under the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund.

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