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Open Access Household-level technologies to improve the availability and preparation of adequate and safe complementary foods

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Plant-based complementary foods are the main source of nutrients for many young children in developing countries. They may, however, present problems in providing nutritionally adequate and safe diets for older infants and young children. The high starch content leads to low-nutrient diets that are bulky and dense, with high levels of antinutritive factors such as phytates, tannins, lectins, and enzyme inhibitors. Phytates impair mineral bioavailability, lectins interfere with intestinal structure, and enzyme inhibitors inhibit digestive enzymes. In addition, there is often microbial contamination, which leads to diarrhea, growth-faltering, and impaired development, and the presence of chemical contaminants may lead to neurological disease and goiter. The fact that some fruits containing carotenoids are only available seasonally contributes to the vulnerability of children receiving predominantly plant-based diets. Traditional household food technologies have been used for centuries to improve the quality and safety of complementary foods. These include dehulling, peeling, soaking, germination, fermentation, and drying. While modern communities tend to reject these technologies in favor of more convenient fast-food preparations, there is now a resurgence of interest in older technologies as a possible means of improving the quality and safety of complementary foods when the basic diet cannot be changed for economic reasons. This paper describes the biology, safety, practicability, and acceptability of these traditional processes at the household or community level, as well as the gaps in research, so that more effective policies and programs can be implemented to improve the quality and safety of complementary foods.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2003

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  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106
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