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Food aid report targets improvements

By Paul Courson, CNN
  • International food aid has missed some developments in nutrition science
  • Report calls for revisions in dietary elements to fight hunger
  • Experts identify improvements in packaging so less food is wasted

Washington (CNN) -- A report on the quality of food handed out during world disasters and famine has identified improvements experts hope will make relief campaigns more effective at fighting hunger.

At a briefing Tuesday, researchers said the revisions include something as simple as package design to make it clear in any language that the food is for a newborn, not the mother or other adults in the household.

The report, delivered to the U.S. Agency for International Development(USAID), also suggested changes in nutrition to match recipients' dietary needs.

Lead author Patrick Webb said that "in many cases they may not see great differences," but he emphasized "a lot of foods will be better for the consumer even if they don't know about it."

To illustrate, researcher Stephen Moody described "things like adding vitamin D to our vegetable oil, which is an excellent carrier for that nutrient, as well as a reformulation of our milled cereal" to standardize what is known about dietary fortification.

The report was prepared under a federal contract with Tufts University in Boston, through a partnership with the U.S. Office of Food for Peace.

USAID Director Rajiv Shah told the gathering the report is essential to national security as well as a way of "transmitting American moral values around the world."

Shah said harsh economic conditions make the findings even more essential.

"We know that when kids are hungry and communities go without food, we see food riots," he said, "and today as we are having this discussion and meeting, we know that these same processes are going on again; fuel and fuel prices are leading to greater hunger and insecurity around the world. And so your efforts as a community to make these reforms real are a critical part of keeping our country safe and secure."