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The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) have collaborated to produce this manual as an expression of their shared commitment to continuing the drive to place food-based strategies for preventing micronutrient deficiencies on the development policy agenda.

Solving micronutrient malnutrition is an important goal of the international community and was emphasized in the World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition adopted at the International Conference on Nutrition in December 1992. Yet to date, most of the efforts to control the three major deficiencies of public health concern worldwide - vitamin A, iron and iodine deficiencies - have used supplementation strategies. Although supplementation is necessary for groups at high risk and as a short-term emergency measure, it fails to recognize the root causes of micronutrient malnutrition and to assist communities and households to adequately feed and nourish themselves in both the near and long term. Supplementation measures cannot provide the overall long-term economic benefits of economy and sustainability that food-based approaches provide.

This manual illustrates the wide array of food-based approaches to overcome micronutrient malnutrition. It also identifies factors hindering their implementation, and attempts to assist policy makers and programmers in overcoming these constraints. Food-based approaches require a sound scientific basis. They should be built on practical experience in nutrition; the agricultural sciences, including horticulture, agronomy, animal science and food marketing; information, education and communication; food technology related to preservation, processing and fortification; and skills in problem assessment, programme management and monitoring and evaluation. This manual has attempted to bring together elements from each of these fields to familiarize the reader with current approaches. For programme planning purposes, more detailed information relating to specific fields should be sought from trained professionals familiar with local conditions.

The information presented in this manual aims to highlight the major issues involved in promoting and developing food-based approaches and to review important lessons learned to date. Its aims are to assist the reader in:

FAO and ILSI envisage this manual as part of a continuing process of dialogue and information exchange to better understand the role of food-based strategies to reduce micronutrient deficiencies. Some of the most knowledgeable experts were engaged to help write it. Three regional meetings were held in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where a wide range of specialists in the developing countries provided excellent feedback on the first draft, commenting not only on technical issues but also on the kind of book they considered would be most useful in their individual countries. The second draft was subsequently sent to a large number of internationally acknowledged experts for further technical advice and comments.

Although Preventing Micronutrient Deficiencies: A Guide to Food-based Approaches has been extensively reviewed, it is by no means complete. We invite readers to offer comments on the text, and we have provided a tear-out form for this purpose. (A form is attached at the end of the manual.) This completed form can be mailed to FAO or ILSI headquarters or to a local FAO office. A revised edition of the manual will be produced when it is deemed necessary.

It is hoped that this manual will serve as the basis for future dialogue and discussion in many forums and will facilitate our endeavour to initiate an international movement committed to the implementation of effective, long-term food-based solutions to the scourge of micronutrient deficiencies.

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