Lack of standards for infant cereals threatens child nutrition in lower-income countries
The first global analysis of complementary foods marketed in lower-income countries highlights the need for basic quality assurance services to improve nutritional consistency and reduce childhood malnutrition.
BOSTON (Dec. 27, 2016)—For parents around the world, premixed infant cereals—also known as complementary foods—can be a vital source of the solid food needed for healthy child growth after six months of age, when infants outgrow the nutrients provided by breast milk alone.
An analysis of 108 commercially available, premixed complementary foods from 22 low- and middle-income countries, conducted by researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, now reveals a widespread lack of consistency in their nutritional content. The study—the first global analysis of its kind—highlights how basic quality assurance services are needed to improve trust in these products and help reduce the incidence of childhood malnutrition in lower-income countries.
The findings were published in Maternal & Child Nutrition on Dec. 22.
“Premixed complementary foods can be extremely effective at protecting infants against malnutrition and stunted growth. In countries where we sampled, some products can readily meet children’s needs, but others fall far below requirements for both macro- and micronutrients,” said study author William Masters, Ph.D., food economist and professor at the Friedman School. “Our results are a call to action for establishing and enforcing nutritional quality standards, which would help ensure access to lower-cost, higher-quality products and enable parents to meet their infants’ needs more easily.”