It is well worth reading the recent statement from the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition.
It is true that close to a billion people still suffer from hunger. It is also true that malnutrition has implications for all eight of the Millennium Development Goals.
The problem I have with the recommendations is that they include nebulous statements like:
‘Scale-up and adapt direct nutrition interventions that have proven effective. It is urgent to build on existing efforts and experience, to review and disseminate good practices and to ensure integration of relevant sectoral interventions’.
What on earth does this mean?
If we are serious about improving nutrition, at a minimum we need to:
- Remunerate producers on the nutritional content of the food they produce. Currently they are remunerated on the yield.
- Eat fresh, eat local and eat seasonal. Home grown is best.
- Stop refining grain.
- Ban trans fats.
- Seriously reduce our consumption of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fat and salt.
- Traffic light label all processed foods. The Food Standards Agency in the UK supports this. The European Commission, most manufacturers and many supermarket chains reject it. I can guess why.
- Stop filling the bellies of hungry children in the third world with corn soya blend (refined cereal), Plumpy’Nut (high fat, high sugar) or XanGo Meal Pack (non dairy creamer).
- Stop using mid upper arm circumference (MUAC) and body mass index (BMI) as a measure of nutritional status – unless we believe that fatter kids are healthier kids.
- Stop believing that we can correct micronutrient deficiencies by adding these to food in the form of chemical isolates, courtesy of the pharmaceutical industry.
Unfortunately, these basic measures involve trampling on the toes of vested interest, so are unlikely ever to be implemented.