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Chewing gum developed to help fight Vitamin A deficiency

By Stephanie Dearing     Nov 10, 2009 in Food
Private companies want to edge into the market of providing nutrients to the world's hungry, and fortifying chewing gum with micronutrients is seen as one way to get a foothold on a huge market.
One company, Gumlink, has created a gum that can deliver a dose of Vitamin A. About 219 million children suffer from Vitamin A deficiency. The deficiency causes blindness as well as other health problems, and increases the risk of miscarriages in pregnant women. The gum, said Gumlink, has a stronger flavour that lasts longer. Normally chewing gum has no nutritional or food value, although it does provide a very small amount of carbohydrates. Some of the world's hungry people might be forgiven for eating the gum -- but it is made to be easily digested.
Gumlink unveiled the new product in Kenya at a conference on malnutrition. The sugar-less gum will be marketed to 3 to 5 year olds and will debut in Kenya in the near future. The company did not say how much the gum might cost once on the market, but said it will contain the daily recommended amount of Vitamin A. Gumlink's Group Vice President, Henrik Jespersen, said "We are delighted to share this innovative product, and are confident that it will go a long way in stemming malnutrition in developing countries, by providing Vitamin A supplementation in a practical manner and at an affordable cost."
The conference, held in Nairobi, was hosted by Gumlink and the Copenhagen Consensus Centre "... to examine some of the most cost-effective solutions and innovative approaches to solve the problem of malnutrition." A second conference was held in New York on November 9th.
Best practices dictate that supplements be complementary, not only with other vitamins and mineral supplements, but also with steps to safeguard health, such as using mosquito netting, the deworming of children and immunization programs.
Micronutrients can be used to fortify food, such as flour and other grains, and economists say that fortifying food is more cost effective than trying to provide supplements.
Earlier this year, UNICEF said it would pump $1.85 million into community-based feeding stations in Nigeria in an attempt to reduce child mortality from malnutrition.
UNICEF has said that food and nutrition insecurity in Kenya will increase this fall and winter, with 24 million people in east Africa needing food aid.
Gumlink joined forces with Turkish company Yildiz earlier this year with the goal of penetrating markets in North Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Europe. The two companies call themselves Continental Confectionery Company.
More about Gum, Malnutrition, Micronutrients, Vitamin deficieny, Kenya
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