Focus on Quality in Food Aid  
MAP, Vitamin A & C Assessments

In 1996 the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) commissioned SUSTAIN to conduct an assessment of the nutritional quality of Food for Peace (Public Law 480, Title II) food aid commodities. These projects – the Vitamin C Pilot and the Micronutrient Assessment Project (MAP) – assessed the uniformity and stability of key micronutrients added to the commodities from the U.S. point of manufacture to overseas consumption.

Significant fluctuations were found in the level and consistency of vitamin content in fortified food aid products at points of manufacture, suggesting the need for some producers to improve quality assurance and control processes. Losses during transport and storage were found to be minimal based on testing at delivery sites in Bolivia, Haiti, India, Peru and Tanzania. A one third loss of Vitamin A from wheat soy blend nine months after production was the largest observed loss and within the range expected by the U.S. commercial food industry. Preliminary sampling in the field (Haiti and Tanzania) showed that significant labile vitamin content is lost as food aid commodities are cooked by recipients. As a result of inadequate manufacturing quality control, as well as storage and cooking losses, the quantity of two key vitamins (A and C) actually delivered to recipients was well below targets.

Based on assessment findings, recommendations were made for enhancing the uniformity and quality of micronutrient fortified commodities. The MAP report called for strengthened commodity micronutrient specifications, compliance programs and quality oversight of food aid commodities. An advisory panel of government stakeholders (USAID, USDA and FDA) as well as industry experts—both food aid commodity producers and companies such as General Mills and Kellogg's that do not manufacture food aid products—contributed expertise and input.

In conjunction with these projects, the feasibility of incorporating Vitamin A into P.L. 480 Title II vegetable oil was evaluated. An assessment of the technical and economic feasibility of fortifying vegetable oil with vitamin A revealed that the vitamin is stable in the oil with appropriate packaging. The addition of vitamin A (as retinol palmitate) to P.L. 480 vegetable oil at the level of at least 60 IU/g was recommended. The U.S. Government issued a corresponding requirement on December 1, 1998.

The U.S. government also acted on project recommendations by issuing new requirements for sampling and testing of micronutrients in P.L. 480 Title II commodities to verify compliance with product specifications. As it was not feasible to regularly assay all micronutrients, compliance was to be based on assays of micronutrient markers—vitamin A for the vitamin premix and iron for the mineral premix. This was the first requirement issued for sampling and testing of micronutrients to verify compliance with food aid product specifications.

SUSTAIN provided further support to government agencies with responsibility for food aid programs by revising and updating the Commodity Reference Guide (CRG) Parts One and Two. The CRG provides a description of the nutritional content and physical properties of food aid commodities distributed under P.L. 480, Title II food aid programs, as well as a guide to appropriate storage and handling. It is housed on the USAID website here.

Project related publications include: