Study-Says-Infant-Foods

Study-Says-Infant-Foods

Complementary food for infants in developing countries – especially those where corn is a staple food – must be protected against fumonisin, a toxin produced by fungi, says an international team of scientists.

Until now, physicians thought the growth retardation of children in those regions was to be blamed on the poor nutritional value of the complementary maize porridge they receive when breast milk is no longer sufficient. But toxins indeed are involved, the scientists report in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.

The call is made by scientists of the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp and their colleagues of the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority and Gent University. Until now, not much attention was paid to mycotoxins in food (mycotoxins are toxins produced by fungi) – with the exception of aflatoxin, of mouldy nuts ill fame. But their research in rural Tanzania does connect fumonisin with stunting and underweight. It is the first time anybody establishes this association.

Worldwide, 1 child in 3 suffers from growth retardation and 1 in 4 is underweight. The problems of stunting and underweight are associated with over 5 million deaths of children less than 5 years annually. 70% of these deaths are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Malnutrition is implicated in the majority of these deaths.

Already in 2004, the same researchers reported that improving the nutritional quality of complementary foods does not reduce stunting and underweight in Tanzanian toddlers. This raises questions about the actual management of malnutrition by international aid organisations.

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