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Re: Coming to terms with terminology

Dr. Sandra Mutuma Action Against Hunger|ACF, United Kingdom

Dear Moderator and Colleagues,

Please find my comments and recommendations below for due consideration:

-The concept of a balanced intake of food and nutrients is missing from the definition, a key concept when defining nutrition, undernutrition or indeed malnutrition. Malnutrition exists when there is an imbalanced intake of food and nutrients, undernutrition leads to a deficiency in energy, wasting (acute) or stunting (chronic), micronutrients (vitamin or mineral deficiency disorders), whereas overnutrition leads to an excess intake of energy (overweight or obesity) or micronutrients (toxicity). The key question at this point is whether the CFS definition pertains to undernutrition (in all its various forms) or to both undernutrition and overnutrition. Point 33 on page 11 of 16 states ‘Keeping in mind that we are all working towards the eradication of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition…’, the CFS definition should clarify its position on exactly what type of malnutrition it is working on by using the word undernutrition in its definition.

-It is clear that the CFS definition does not refer to overnutrition, although ACF notes that undernutrition can exist in overweight or obese people due to an overabundance of certain types of food energy e.g. from carbohydrates and fats and yet be lacking in essential fats, protein and micronutrients. Furthermore, dietary intake of food may be balanced in terms of nutrient intake but inadequate in terms of quantity, whilst food intake may be sufficient in quantity without being balanced or of good quality. In the annex of key terms, undernutrition appears only under the hunger heading where it seems to be interchangeable with malnutrition. As such, the annex should fully and cogently define different types of undernutrition and overnutrition.

-Food preference can be a very personal and subjective thing and we know that food preferences have never been an aspect of food security throughout history. The more pertinent term here may be, culturally acceptable. Individuals prefer a variety foods but that is an impossible condition to apply to ‘all people at all times’ as per the current definition and individual food preferences are not necessarily ideal or conducive to health.

-From reading the 37th Session Final Report (Rome 17-22 October) it is clear that when the terms, food security and nutrition or food and nutrition security are used, in the text, there is hardly any mention of nutrition at all and it invariably refers actually only to food security. As such, food security and nutrition security should be two separate terms rather than merged as current practice. However, even if Food is added as a prefix to nutrition security, I suggest that the current definition proposed should be amended accordingly to read as:

“(Food security and) Nutrition security exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to food and water, which provides a balanced diet that is safe, consumed in sufficient quantity and quality as well as culturally acceptable to meet all their dietary needs and is supported by an environment of adequate sanitation, health care and to enable optimum health and activity in all physiological states, throughout the human lifecycle.”

Best Regards,

Dr Sandra Mutuma
Senior Nutrition Advisor at Action Against Hunger