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Editorial policy

The Food and Nutrition Bulletin is intended to make available policy analyses, state-of-the-art summaries, and original scientific articles relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world. It is not intended for the publication of scientific articles of principal interest only to individuals in a single discipline or within a single country or region. Notices of relevant books and other publications will be published if they are received for review. The Bulletin is also a vehicle for notices of forthcoming international meetings that satisfy the above criteria and for summaries of such meetings.

The Food and Nutrition Bulletin also serves as the principal outlet for the publication of reports of working groups and other activities of the UN ACC Sub-committee on Nutrition (SCN) and its Advisory Group on Nutrition.

The SCN itself is a focal point for coordinating activities of FAO, WHO, UNICEF, the UNU, Unesco, the World Bank, the World Food Programme, the World Food Council, the United Nations Environment Programme, and other bodies of the United Nations system which have an interest in food and nutrition.

Submissions. Unsolicited manuscripts of articles of the type published in this and previous issues may be sent to the editor at the Boston office address given above. They must be typed, double-spaced, with complete references and must include original copy for any figures used (see the "Note for contributors" in the back of this issue).

Any disciplinary or conceptual approach relevant to problems of world hunger and malnutrition is welcome, and controversy over some of the articles is anticipated. Letters to the editor are encouraged and will be printed if judged to have an adequate basis and to be of sufficient general interest.

Peer review. The Bulletin is a peer-reviewed journal. Every article submitted first receives editorial review. If it is consistent with the editorial policy and is not obviously deficient in some way, it is sent to two or sometimes three experienced and knowledgeable reviewers. Occasionally a paper may be returned to the authors by the editor with suggestions for improvement before it is submitted to the reviewers.

If two reviewers agree that the paper should be published in the Bulletin, it is accepted and either sent immediately for copy editing or returned to the authors for consideration of suggestions from the reviewers and the editor. If both reviewers agree that the paper should not be accepted, the editor writes a personal letter to the authors explaining the reason and enclosing the comments of the reviewers anonymously. If the reviewers do not agree with each other, either the paper is sent to a third reviewer or a decision is taken by the editor. In these cases, the authors are usually given a chance to respond to the reviewers' comments.

Disclaimer. It is expressly understood that articles published in the Bulletin do not necessarily represent the views of the United Nations University, the UN ACC Subcommittee on Nutrition, or any United Nations organization. The views expressed and the accuracy of the information on which they are based are the responsibility of the authors. Some articles in the Bulletin are reports of various international committees and working groups and do represent the consensus of the individuals involved; whether or not they also represent the opinions or policies of the sponsoring organizations is expressly stated.

The United Nations University (UNU) is an organ of the United Nations established by the General Assembly in 1972 to be an international community of scholars engaged in research, advanced training, and the dissemination of knowledge related to the pressing global problems of human survival, development, and welfare. Its activities focus mainly on peace and conflict resolution, development in a changing world, and science and technology in relation to human welfare. The University operates through a worldwide network of research and postgraduate training centres, with its planning and coordinating headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.

The United Nations University Press, the publishing division of the UNU, publishes scholarly books and periodicals in the social sciences, humanities, and pure and applied natural sciences related to the University's research.


The institute of nutrition, Mahidol university

This issue of the Food and Nutrition Bulletin contains two papers by authors from the Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University (INMU), in Bangkok, Thailand (pp. 8 and 34), an institution that has become a key leader in the advancement of food and nutrition in the Asian region and one of the best in developing countries worldwide. It was established in 1977 on the recommendation of Thailand's National Economic and Social Development Board as a coordinating body to strengthen the country's national food and nutrition development plans. Mahidol University was selected as the host institution because of its dedication to health and medical sciences and the high level of expertise its faculty had demonstrated in national food and nutrition programming. While the Institute retains its original purpose, its mission is also to develop and implement activities in research, training, and graduate education for food, nutrition, and allied health sciences. It has been an Associated Institution of the United Nations University since 1980.

Since its establishment, INMU has grown rapidly from a national planning and implementation body for the Thai government to an internationally recognized leader in the field of nutrition and its allied population, health, agriculture, and rural development areas. To ensure the relevance and responsiveness of its research and education programmes to nutrition and health needs, the Institute has developed an extensive network of links with national and international agencies, and is one of the foremost examples of East-West and regional partnership in food, nutrition, and health research. This relationship has been fostered firstly through mutual trust, collaboration, and academic exchanges with countries within and outside the South-East Asian region.

INMU faculty members have been recruited by many international organizations to serve as consultants to programmes being undertaken in other countries, such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the People's Republic of China, the Philippines, and Viet Nam. Furthermore, the capability of its faculty is demonstrated through their participation in the expert groups of such international organizations as the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS), the International Vitamin A Consultative Group (IVACG), OMNI-Opportunities for Micronutrient Interventions of USAID, the (US) National Academy of Sciences, and subcommittees of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. On its own behalf, INMU is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre in Behavioural Science for Nutrition as well as in Communication and Behavioural Science; a Johns Hopkins University Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Vitamin A Deficiency; a US Department of Agriculture Collaborating Centre for Nutrient Requirements, Bioavailability, and Interaction; a University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia) Affiliated Institute; immediate past Secretariat of the WHO/SEARO Nutrition Research-cum-Action Network; ASEANFOODS Secretariat; and an INFOODS Regional Centre; as well as being, as noted above, an Associated Institution of the United Nations University.

Under the leadership of Dr. Aree Valyasevi, Dr. Sakorn Dhanamitta, and Dr. Kraisid Tontisirin, its current director, INMU has modified its focus and direction over the years to reflect changes in public needs and professional interests as well as national and regional priorities. Today, it is a model centre which embraces the realization that nutritional problems do not stem only from biological and chemical processes. More importantly, they arc regulated by a spectrum of other causative factors, originating in cultural beliefs, social relations, economics, and political and ideological differences. For many developing nations, these are complicated by rapid changes associated with modernization which not only affect urban populations but reach into remote rural areas as well.

To meet new challenges, the range and depth of skills required by INMU's faculty has greatly increased, largely because nutrition in Thailand has now, more than ever, become a multidisciplinary, integrated field. Presently, the faculty run the gamut from those responsible for developing laboratory and pilot-plant-scale food and nutrition technologies and products to those who have stepped out of the laboratory and into the everyday lives of community members. Whereas their concern formerly focused more or less exclusively on solving nutrition problems per se, they are now internationally recognized experts in integrating their food and nutrition knowledge and turning it into action programmes from national to community levels. The aim is for holisitic community development as a means for sustainable food and nutrition improvements. Two of the many areas where INMU excels in this are the development and application of vitamin A assessment methods and approaches, and nutrition communication programmes that utilize social marketing to change not only people's behaviours but the environment upon which they rest.

INMU's current programmes include providing expertise in national nutrition programming for its Asian neighbours and responding to the changing food and nutrition needs of the people of Thailand and other nations in the region; developing innovating nutritional assessment and intervention strategies; control of specific nutritional deficiencies associated with developing nations and those that are experiencing "nutrition in transition" as they move toward an industrialized status; food and nutrition education on national and international scales; food processing and technology, quality assurance, supplementary food production, and food quality control.

The Bulletin is very pleased to recognize the continuing regional and global impact of INMU's contributions to overcoming hunger and malnutrition.


Public health nutrition

Strategies for developing countries: Experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean

Manuel Amador


Developing countries face severe poverty, unemployment, low agriculture productivity, unequal distribution of income and consumption, poor sanitation, and illiteracy. These problems are difficult to solve because of lack of resources, industrial backwardness, and the limited extent to which modern science and technology are introduced. Thus it is necessary to reexamine the objectives of development and the values on which they are established. It will not be possible to achieve fair levels of well-being if progress is attempted simply by copying patterns in rich countries rather than through a rational application of those countries' scientific knowledge and productive technologies. In several countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, the development of technical and human resources and institutions has helped solve several problems. Cuba has made progress in biotechnology and in health, food, agriculture, cattle, fishery, and education, applying its own resources and the creativeness of scientists, technicians, and workers in these fields. These efforts have succeeded notwithstanding the difficulty of gaining access to Western technology and the country's severe financial limitations. A political decision for elaborating a global strategy and setting resources, and testing the technology and evaluating its technical, economic, social, political, and cultural feasibility were necessary.

Technology and development

Developing countries face severe problems of poverty and an extensive migration from rural to urban areas. Conditions of deprivation, unemployment, low agriculture productivity, unequal distribution of income and consumption, poor sanitation, and illiteracy are difficult to solve because the countries lack the institutional strengths and trained human resources necessary to apply modern scientific knowledge and overcome technological backwardness. The magnitude of the existing problems of under-development requires re-examining the objectives of development and the values on which they are established.

Such countries cannot achieve acceptable levels of wellbeing (nutrition, sanitation, lodging, other basic needs) if progress is defined uncritically as copying the consumption patterns of industrialized countries. Instead, the great quantity of knowledge and the highly productive technologies of the more advanced countries must be applied carefully.

Technology is the aggregate of scientific activities through which knowledge is applied to discover, understand, modify, or generate a product, process, or service [1]. A given technology is appropriate or inappropriate according to its relationship with a specific set of circumstances or factors [2, 3]. Appropriate technology is the application of modern ideas of science for simplifying, adapting, improving, or developing processes, machines, equipment, or services with the aim of solving problems according to the circumstances and needs of the less-developed countries and sectors of the population [1, 4].

Technological activity is undertaken in response to existing problems and the need to solve them. To be appropriate, technology must allow users control in satisfying their essential needs and aspirations and, consequently, in their own development. It must be generated (or adapted), transferred, and applied within the context of the population to which it is addressed. Options available for technological solutions to a given problem are to acquire technologies through purchase or donations, to generate them, to adapt or improve them, and to improve indigenous or traditional practices.

Generating technology (or adapting existing technology) and transferring it are complementary activities that require planning, knowledge, resources, and specific activities. Both will be more effective if they are applied to solving existing problems, as opposed to potential problems or even those that are sure to arise at some future time.


The Latin American approach

Incaparina: Guatemala

One prototype model of generation and transfer of food technologies in Latin America is the development of Incaparina. This product was the result of thorough scientific and technological studies carried out at the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP) to help reduce the high prevalence of protein-energy malnutrition in infants and children of the region. It provided low-income groups with a culturally acceptable, low-cost beverage. The beverage was equivalent to milk in nutritional value and could be recommended as a weaning food for infants and as a supplement for their mothers [5].

In this case, the problem was identified and characterized, and the product, a mixture of high protein quality based on native raw vegetable products, was elaborated taking into account local habits and preferences. The technology was tested and its feasibility was evaluated.

Incaparina was produced commercially and introduced into the market on the basis of an agreement among INCAP, a private producer, and the Guatemalan government. The production started in an INCAP pilot plant, but soon the private producer took all responsibility for production and marketing. This was done with INCAP's technical advice and with the requirement that the price must be kept low. The users of the technology participated in the process from the very beginning and along all stages of its generation and transfer.

Food alternatives: Cuba

Currently, Cuba's foreign commercial and financial relations are experiencing an acute deterioration due to the disappearance of the socialist community and the simultaneous strengthening of the United States embargo in a country where the food supply is strongly dependent on the international market. These circumstances have impaired food production and imports and, consequently, food availability and consumption, especially since 1989. The daily per capita food energy supply decreased from 2,929 kcal (12.24 MJ) in 1985 to 2,330 kcal (9.34 MJ) in 1992 and the protein supply from 76 g to 57 g.

This led to a search for alternative strategies to alleviate this decline. The Cuban Ministry of Food Industry, with the collaboration of the Ministry of Public Health, developed a programme of alternatives to provide people with food products of high nutritional value made with available foodstuffs and at low cost that is, to develop appropriate technologies that could be applied at the local level.

In this case, the problem was the decline in availability of energy and animal protein, and the need was for alternative products made with available foodstuffs, mainly of vegetable origin [6]. The result was a group of products (hamburger, ground meat, sausages, fish sticks) made of 30% meat and 70% soya bean flour, plus blood as a source of haem iron, that are culturally acceptable and inexpensive.

A multidisciplinary group of the Food Research Institute and the Institute of Nutrition and Food Hygiene designed an automated system for the optimum use of meat in products with a wide range of applications. Technologies were tested; feasibility, hygienic, and sanitary evaluations were made; and characterization and acceptability tests were carried out. The foods were produced initially in a plant at the Food Research Institute, and later their production was transferred to several units of the food industry in different provinces [6]. Promotional efforts were made through mass communications media and the health care system.


Appropriate technology as a contribution, not a definitive solution

These are examples of how appropriate technologies can contribute to a developing country's nutrition and welfare, but they are not definitive solutions. Political and economic policies are necessary to improve the purchasing power of the lowest-income groups, using strategies that ensure that the benefits of economic growth reach them. Macro-economic adjustment policies put into practice by governments must include specific social and economic strategies to promote sustained development that will benefit vulnerable groups, and compensatory programmes for preventing the spread of poverty.

All strategies require qualified human resources in science and technology, and institutions to identify the problems of industry and to conduct research on ways to stimulate socio-economic development. Research has become a vital component of the development process. Research scientists in developing countries must identify complex food-related problems and find social, scientific, and technological solutions for them.

In Cuba, the political decisions to elaborate strategies and allocate resources for solving the current food problems and to preserve achievements in health and nutritional well-being are expressed in the National Food Programme [7, 8]. Successful applications of biotechnology and progress in health, food, agriculture, cattle, fishery, and education have been made in the country in the last three decades thanks to the creativity of scientists, technicians, and users. This has been achieved despite the difficulties of obtaining Western technologies and the severe financial limitations, which have become aggravated in recent years [7, 8]. The participation of the community was essential for the development, access, and acceptability of projects to improve food and nutrition.



1. Cuevas R. Tecnologías apropiadas en alimentos: marco conceptual pare su generación y transferencia en Centroamérica y Panama. Arch Latinoamer Nutr 1991;41: 47598.

2. Jéquier N. Appropriate technology directory. Paris: Development Centre, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1979.

3. Biggs S. The multidisciplinary approach to development. Approp Technol 1985;11:7-8.

4. Dunn PD. Appropriate technology: priorities, past, present and future. Approp Technol 1983;10:18-19.

5. Scrimshaw NS. A look at the Incaparina experience in Guatemala. Food Nutr Bull 1980;2(2):1-2.

6. Panadés E. Alternativas alimentarias en período especial en Cuba. Report. Havana: Food Research Institute, 1993.

7. Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular. El programa alimentario. Havana: Editorial Jose Martí. 1991:165-80.

8. República de Cuba. International Conference on Nutrition. Report. Havana. 1992.

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