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  • Nutrition Security for a Burgeoning World Population

    By USDEC Staff September 10, 2013


    An important component of nutrition security will be food aid, and it is an opportunity to raise dairy's profile even further.

    The global population is on track to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, according to the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO). That means 2.3 billion more mouths to feed than today. Virtually all those additional mouths will reside in developing nations, primarily in Asia and Africa.

    In addition, economic growth and urbanization (by 2050, around 70 percent of the world will live in cities, compared to about half today) will further lift overall food consumption and drive demand for foods higher in protein—dairy and meat, specifically.

    In order to feed the additional mouths, as well as accommodate the rising appetites, world food production would need to expand 70 percent from the annual 2005/2007 average, according to the FAO.

    The numbers hold positive implications for U.S. dairy exporters: Trade will be a critical component to achieving future global food security. As former executive director of the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) Catherine Bertini noted at the Chicago Council Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security this May, “If we are to feed a world of 9 billion people by 2050, more agricultural commodities, more food will need to move across country borders with more efficiency.”

    But the projections also emphasize a particular opportunity where dairy’s profile is rising sharply: food aid.

    According to the WFP, malnutrition is the No. 1 risk to health worldwide. Malnutrition (particularly in the first 1,000 days of life) and stunting have debilitating effects on the physical and mental development of populations. Studies have shown that hunger reduces school attendance, lowers IQ, decreases wages and hinders economic development.

    WFP dubbed stunting, which affected more than one-quarter of all children under 5 in 2011, the “new plague” of our century.

    It follows then that nutrition security, as opposed to just food security, is now at the core of the food aid agenda.

    “Dairy may help address this new plague and prevent new cases of stunting in moderately malnourished children,” says Véronique Lagrange, USDEC senior vice president, strategy and insights.

    Scientific evidence continues to mount that dairy protein plays a key role in both the treatment and prevention of malnutrition. There is strong evidence that:

      1. Cow’s milk stimulates linear growth in nutritionally vulnerable children.
      2. Milk stimulates weight gain and linear growth in infancy.
      3. Whey proteins support lean body mass growth, muscle recovery.
      4. Dairy proteins have superior nutritional quality.
      5. Other components in milk (lactose, minerals such as phosphorus) are important in re-nutrition.

    "But there still is a lot we do not know," says Lagrange. "We need more information so that policymakers can incorporate supplementation with dairy, once and for all, as part of official guidelines."

    USDEC is funding, in collaboration with U.S. and international teams, clinical research to identify a defined dose of dairy ingredients that is effective for the treatment of moderate malnutrition and the prevention of stunting.

     “We are also working on a global research plan to help accelerate the advancement of science in this sector and support nutrition policies in many emerging countries,” says Lagrange. “In turn, this will lead to increased demand in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.”

    Several dairy ingredients are already used in ready-to-use supplementary foods purchased by UNICEF, Doctors without Borders and, more recently, USAID. Several U.S. suppliers and an international network of small certified entrepreneurs are interested in using U.S. whey proteins, permeate and milk powders.

    The “size of the prize” for U.S. ingredients is estimated at a minimum of 60,000 tons but as high as 100,000 tons (SMP equivalent) annually by 2016.

    Says Lagrange, “Now is the time to act to optimize the opportunity, and mostly, to help save the future of 195 million children.”

    (This article first appeared in the September 2013 edition of Export Profile.)

    Image copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

    The U.S. Dairy Export Council is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff that builds on collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to build global demand for U.S. dairy products.   



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