22 July 2019

Danish researchers transform Siamese mud carp into nutrition-rich ‘fish snacks’

This news is redirected and translated by SCIENCE from the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sport.

Two researchers from the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at University of Copenhagen have in collaboration with UNICEF and others developed and tested a ‘fish snack’, which the Government of Cambodia can use to fight undernourishment. The product is a crisp waffle with a nutrition-rich filling enriched with Siamese mud carp and other local, dried fish from the Mekong-river. Therefore, the product is both sustainable, cheap and adapted to local taste preferences.

A crisp waffle traditional Cambodian food. Photo: Ass. Prof. Nanna Roos.

In Cambodia, many children suffer from acute malnutrition in spite of the general living standards improving throughout the last decades. According to the latest national study, no less than 10 pct. of all children below the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition – equivalent to almost 200.000 children. This is a critical condition, which demands treatment with specialized products with high nutrition value.

The local taste preferences are essential
Today, Cambodia imports the product BP-100 to treat acute malnutrition. BP-100 is a compact, biscuit-like bar with milk powder enriched with vitamins and minerals. But BP-100 is not an optimal product in Cambodia. There are challenges in relation to taste, which does not meet the local taste preferences, the high price and the product is difficult to transport to the health clinics situated in the remote countryside.

”The callenge is that Cambodians do not like the taste nor the texture of the products imported to treat malnutrition. When a undernourished child’s mother – or other caretakers – do not like the product it is damaging to the treatment,” says Sanne Sigh, who takes part in the project as a Ph.D.-student from the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports. She continues:

”Therefore it was our task – together with a number of collaborators – to develop a product, which was adapted to local taste preferences and simultaneously looked like something, which the Cambodians eat in their everyday lives. Meanwhile, the product needed to become cheaper in order to treat more children. As fish are very available in Cambodia, we created a fish-based product without imported milk protein. Afterwards, we have proven that it works just as well as the imported milk-product in the treatment of malnutrition.” 

The Siamese mud carp grow to a lenght of maximum 20 centimeters.

Siamese mud carp with great nutrition value
The new product is a crisp, finger-sized waffle within which, local fish in powder-form functions as a nutrition-rich ingredient in the filling. The product is adapted to local preferences, as the crisp waffles are a known snack in Cambodia and as fish are a central part of the diet. The fish, which are used in the snack – such as Siamese mud carp and other fish from the carp- family –, have great nutrition value, Associate Professor at the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports Nanna Roos, who has collaborated with among others UNICEF in the product development, says:

“There is a large amount of calcium in the fish bones and regarding protein, the fish are a completely sufficient replacement for the milk powder in the nutrition products normally used for treating acute malnutrition. Furthermore, the advantage is that it is produced within the country with local products. It opens up for a far greater use of the products for strategic prevention of undernourishment in situations where you know the risk is high, for example in relation to floods or in areas of the country where the poverty rate is especially high”, Associate Professor Nanna Roos says.

Further distribution
The product has today gotten the name Nutrix and is brought into production by the company Danish Care Foods, a Cambodian-based company with Danish owners and leadership. The company is among others supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the goal is to continue the development of cheap and locally produced snack-like nutrition products making it possible for the Government of Cambodia to treat more undernourished children both in the big cities and in the remote, poor villages. The local production can contribute to an improved economy and more jobs in Cambodia.

Apart from UNICEF, the University of Copenhagen also collaborate on the product development together with Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Montpellier, France, and with the Department of Post-harvested Technology and Quality (DEPTQ), Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Cambodia.

Read the original article here (Danish only)

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