Food Fortification Promises Improved Health and Productivity In Developing Nations

Important New Alliance Launched to Increase Access to Nutrient Fortified Foods

NEW YORK, May 9 -- The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) -- a new alliance of public and private sector partners -- was launched today in an effort to leverage cost-effective food fortification initiatives that promise to improve health, cognitive development and productivity in developing nations.

GAIN will support developing countries in the implementation of locally developed food fortification programs designed to help eliminate the devastating -- and often deadly -- effects of vitamin and mineral deficiencies (known as micronutrient deficiency). GAIN's partners will include bilateral donors, foundations, UN and other multilateral agencies, developing country governments, private sector companies, NGOs and academic institutions. Funds available for the first year of GAIN activities will be between US$20-25 million with more than US$70 million committed over 5 years, including US$50 million over five years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and initial contributions of US$8 million from USAID, CDN$5.5 million from the Micronutrient Initiative and CDN$500,000 from the Canadian International Development Agency.

"More than two billion people -- mostly women and children -- still suffer from micronutrient deficiencies," said Anne Peterson, Assistant Administrator, USAID Bureau for Global Health. "Yet, experience proves that well-designed food fortification programs can not only dramatically improve health, they can reduce stifling national healthcare costs and boost intellectual potential and domestic productivity."

Micronutrient deficiencies -- in particular, deficiencies in vitamin A, iron, folic acid and iodine -- cause a wide range of serious health problems including birth defects, maternal death, childhood mortality, impaired physical and mental growth, blindness, anemia and increased susceptibility to infections.

"Public-private partnerships are essential for solving the health, hygiene and nutrition issues of children world-wide," said John Pepper, Chairman of the Board of Procter & Gamble. "The GAIN initiative is a creative, new approach toward solving the global micronutrient malnutrition problem, and P&G is aligned with GAIN's mission and goals."

"Improving nutrition is an important part of our foundation's goal to increase global health equity," explained Sally Stansfield, Acting Director, Vaccines and Infectious Diseases for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Food fortification is a cost-effective health intervention that works. Correcting vitamin A and iron deficiencies alone can help reduce maternal deaths by 20%(1), decrease child mortality by at least 23%(2) and increase work capacity by up to 15%(3)."

Leveraging the expertise and experience of its partner organizations, GAIN will support national fortification of regularly consumed products, as appropriate to, and tailored for, local dietary needs and customs. GAIN will also support in-country social marketing of those fortified foods.

Stansfield also stressed that food fortification is "neither new, nor revolutionary. In fact," she added, "the developed world has been reaping its health benefits for years through, for example, iodized salt and milk enriched with vitamins A and D. GAIN is a sign of the growing global movement determined to give all children the best possible start in life."

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About GAIN
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is an alliance of international public, private and civic organizations committed to improving health, cognitive development and productivity in developing countries through the elimination of vitamin and mineral deficiencies -- especially deficiencies of vitamin A, iodine, folic acid and iron.

(1) Brabin B.J., Hakimi M. and Pelletier D. An Analysis of Anemia and Pregnancy-Related Maternal Mortality. Journal of Nutrition. 131: 604S-615S, 2001

(2) Beaton G.H., Martorell, R., Aronson K.J. Edmonston B, McCabe G., Ross A.C., Harvey B. (1993) Effectiveness of vitamin A supplementation in the control of young child morbidity and mortality in developing countries. ACC/SCN State of the Art Series. Nutrition Policy Discussion Paper No. 13. December 1993. ACC/SCN, Geneva.

(3) Haas J.D. and Brownlie T. Iron Deficiency and Reduced Work Capacity: A Critical Review of the Research to Determine a Causal Relationship. Journal of Nutrition; 131: 676S-690S, 2001.

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