The power of portable nutrient testing

By Holly McKee & Dr Anna Zhenchuk

- Last updated on GMT

NGOs like Helen Keller International are using BioAnalyt kits to determine intakes in places like Indonesia. ©BioAnalyt
NGOs like Helen Keller International are using BioAnalyt kits to determine intakes in places like Indonesia. ©BioAnalyt

Related tags: Food fortification, Nutrition

German tech company BioAnalyt explains how its portable testing kits are providing fast, affordable nutrient data that is crucial in the fight against global malnutrition.

Our portable labs (iCheck) enable measurement of nutrients in foods and in humans on-site where it is needed most.

To ensure that a nutrition programme is making the intended impact on the malnourished, nutrients must be tracked along the whole value chain. This includes the quality of raw materials, production, distribution, as well as the nutrient levels of each individual. That’s where we come in.

Personal nutrition data engages 4000 families in Indonesia to improve mothers’ and children’s dietary awareness & behavior

In impoverished communities in West Timor, Indonesia, rice and maize are often the predominant sources of nutrition. With the absence of protein and micronutrient-rich vegetables from their diets, people can suffer from wasting, stunting and malnourishment. NGO Helen Keller International’s (HKI) Enhanced Homestead Food Production (EHFP) programme is helping to diversify diets through training and education, but ran into challenges in encouraging participation in the study.

In the EHFP programme’s baseline study, blood samples had to be quickly frozen and analysed at base camp – miles away from the participants’ villages – meaning that participants couldn’t find out the results of their blood tests.

To encourage participation in the endline study, rapid test kits to analyse blood, breast milk and salt samples were brought to the villages. The participants could personally observe the analysis and received on the spot, individual health cards with their personal data.

“Based on the observations from the field, we received almost 100% participation at endline because our beneficiaries as well as family members were eager to know the results,”​ said Dian Hadihardjono, Nutrition Programme Manager at HKI Indonesia.

Moreover, on-the-spot results allowed participants to receive immediate feedback and counseling on their health and diets, encouraging sustainability of the four-year initiative.

Read more about that here​.

Coverage data helps inform the development of fortification programmes

Fortification of staple foods with vitamins and minerals is recognised to be a cost–effective public health intervention that can reach large segments of the population. The impact of a food fortification programme lies in its coverage, that is the proportion of people, particularly those at risk of inadequate micronutrient intakes that the programme reaches. 

africa manutrition crops food security developing iStock.com borgogniels
©iStock/borgogniels

Assessing a programme’s coverage – especially of those who need it most – is a recurring challenge for organisations, who are often beleaguered by small sample sizes, geographical limitations and high lab costs.

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) worked to address this issue by developing The Fortification Assessment Coverage Toolkit (FACT). FACT is painting a clearer picture of the potential for impact of fortification programs. To fully map the coverage and adequacy of fortified foods, however, thousands of samples needed to be tested.

“Partnering with BioAnalyt made sense as we needed reliable and affordable data to assess the coverage and inform the development of our programmes,” ​said Greg Garrett, Large Scale Food Fortification Director at GAIN. BioAnalyt used its kits to measure vitamins and minerals in the collected samples in an affordable and scaleable way.

BioAnalyt's mission

BioAnalyt’s testing kits measure various minerals and vitamins with more in the development pipeline. The company seeks to democratise measurement of all critical nutrients for full transparency of the impact nutrition has on the health.

To date, FACT surveys assessing large-scale food fortification have been performed in 14 countries ranging from India to Kazakhstan to Ethiopia. By using these results to improve programme delivery and addressing barriers to coverage as the programme rolls out, GAIN is bringing effective food fortification to more and more people around the world.

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