Eradicating Malnutrition – fortified biscuits or local legumes?

The current figures associated with malnutrition should not exist in the 21st century. In India alone 48% of children are stunted, and globally UNICEF estimates that 4 children die every minute due to malnutrition. Lack of food diversity and the associated restriction in micro and macro nutrient consumption is a key driver of undernutrition. 

Two paradigms offer contrasting solutions to this problem. 

A high tech approach proposes the use of centrally produced, sterile, cheap, fortified, packaged foods. These can be in the form of complete meals containing the entire RDA of nutrients such as the flavoured soy milk and fortified biscuits provided by The Breakfast Revolution in India, or more restricted fortification such as those found in the fortified breakfast cereals and soft drinks widely available in the west. These products tend to be popular, uniform and hard to adulterate between the factory and shop, yet pay little regard for the comprehensive food system including social, environmental and wider sustainability concerns. 

The second paradigm takes a broader approach to food systems, providing the complete RDA of micro and macro nutrients through increasing dietary diversity, often associated with locally diverse farming systems. This paradigm takes a more systematic approach to food, and recognises that food goes beyond nutrition. Yet without the all-in-one approach of the industrial solutions there remains a risk that the poorest individuals will continue eating a sub-optimal diet and in the context of government food project there is increased risk of theft and adulteration of unpackaged foods. 

This session would explore the relative benefits of both paradigms for different places and different time-scales, as well as to explore how each can be modified to improve its wider sustainability to food producers, processers and final consumers

Chair: Dr Alfred Gathorne-Hardy (Oxford University) 
Dr Petra Klassen-Wigge (Nestle) 
Dr Barbara Smith (Coventry University) 
Dr Suneetha Kadiyala (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) 
Hugh Bagnall-Oakeley (Save the Children)


Audio recording: