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DSM partners with WFP to combat malnutrition

By Jess Halliday , 13-Mar-2007

Dutch chemical group DSM has announced a global partnership with the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) that aims to improve and increase nutritious food for people in poor countries and during humanitarian crises.

DSM has considerable expertise in the fields of nutrition; one of its four business clusters is Nutrition, encompassing DSM Nutritional Products (formerly Roche Vitamins) and DSM Food Specialities. DSM has pledged assistance to the WFP in three ways: by providing expertise and knowledge in micronutrients; providing products, such as vitamins and minerals for food fortification; and financial assistance. A spokesperson for the company told NutraIngredients.com that the details of the partnership are still being worked out, but the combined value of the three elements comes to "several million euros over the next three years". The initiative could also see some of DSM's employees doing some work for the WFP. DSM managing board member Feike Sijbesma explained why such a partnership is important: "Business cannot survive in a society that fails. Solving malnutrition and hunger are critical to achieving the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, which are aimed at halving hunger and poverty by 2015. "Companies in the life sciences sector, with their expertise and leadership, can serve as a driving force to tackle these problems." The commitment builds on DSM's existing Nutrition Improvement Program, which has been in place for the last few years. This programme has revolved around providing technical and scientific support for supplementation programmes around the world, and fortifying staple foods with essential vitamins and minerals. For instance, it owns the rights to a patented process to produce a novel nutritious rice kernel which looks just like ordinary rice, but which has a high vitamin and mineral content. It is intended for mixing with ordinary rice, to help combat 'hidden hunger' - that is, when people have enough to eat, but their food is of poor nutritional value. This means that while they may have enough calories to survive, they may still suffer from malnutrition, which can result in poor productivity or blindness. DSM also made a second announcement at the Biovision conference that is intended to help address blindness with its root cause in malnutrition. Through its Sight and Life programme, which has been in existence for 20 years, it presented to UNICEF and the WFP and book entitled Nutritional Anaemia at BioVision 2007. The main causes of nutritional anaemia are lack of iron, vitamin A, folic acid and/or vitamin B 12. The condition, together with other forms of malnutrition, is though to block some 200m children from reaching their full mental and physical potential, resulting in a loss of gross domestic product (GDP) of around US$50bn per year. The book, said to be "instrumental" in fighting nutritional anaemia, was edited by Klaus Kraemer of Sight and Life and Michael Zimmerman of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and involved the input of leading scientists so as to include the latest research on the subject. "With this book, which for the first time specifies all the critical factors of nutritional anaemia, we want to demonstrate our responsibility and point the way forward in combating this public health problem. "What we still need s to build bridges between science and technology, service providers, and political as well as financial decision makers." The Nutrition cluster, which comprises DSM Nutritional Products, DSM Food Specialities and DSM Special Products, reported net sales (including intra-group supplies) of €2.463 bn in full year 2006, compared with €2.458 in 2005. Operating profit dipped slightly to €314m from €329m.

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