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FAO pays tribute to Dr Nevin Scrimshaw

Led efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition

Photo: ©FAO Photo LIbrary
Nevin Scrimshaw
1 March 2013, Rome - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization today paid tribute to the prominent US food scientist Dr Nevin S. Scrimshaw, who recently died at age 95.

The Organization said in a statement:  "It was with great sorrow that FAO learned of the death of Dr Scrimshaw. During a career spanning over 70 years he dedicated his life's work to the alleviation of malnutrition and hunger, benefiting the lives of millions of people throughout the developing world. As a one of the original nutrition pioneers, he developed and promoted numerous malnutrition solutions through his leadership of research programmes and establishment of dedicated nutrition institutes.

"He will be remembered for his innumerable accomplishments, but for FAO his most enduring legacy will be in the area of food composition.  Dr. Scrimshaw recognized very early in his career that food composition data provides the fundamental underpinning to every activity in nutrition.

"At the same time, he observed with dismay that many nutrition interventions were being implemented throughout the world with no understanding of the nutrient contents of local foods and diets.  Under the auspices of United Nations University, he created the International Network of Food Data Systems, INFOODS, in the mid-1980s to address this neglected work.  In the mid-1990's, FAO joined with UNU in support of INFOODS, and since 1999 FAO has hosted the INFOODS Secretariat.

Food composition still under-valued

"Owing to Dr Scrimshaw's vision, INFOODS and its Regional Data Centres have been active and productive for almost 25 years. Food composition is still under-valued in nutrition, as Dr. Scrimshaw noted in his keynote address to the 8th International Food Data Conference in Bangkok in 2009, but its importance is increasingly being recognized by other sectors, including trade, where nutrition labeling is important, and by the environmental sector, where sustainable diets are an issue.  It was at this Conference that the first Nevin Scrimshaw prize was awarded, and Dr Scrimshaw was, fittingly, its first recipient.

"Dr. Scrimshaw was the founder and Honorary President of the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation, and the recipient of hundreds of awards and honors, the highlight being the 1991 World Food Prize in recognition of a "lifetime of action to alleviate malnutrition in developing nations".

Barbara Burlingame, FAO's Principal Nutrition Officer and INFOODS coordinator from 1995-2011, added: "Dr Scrimshaw will be remembered as the nutrition world's superhero, and we in FAO's Nutrition Division will always honor his legacy."