Revisiting the vitamin A fiasco: going local in Micronesia

  • Authors : Englberger, L.

  • Document type : Conference paper

  • Year of publication : 2012

  • Conference : Biodiversity and sustainable diets united against hunger, 3–5 November 2010

  • Book title : Sustainable diets and biodiversity: Directions and solutions for policy, research and action

  • Editors : Burlingame, B.; Dernini, S.

  • Publisher(s) : FAO

  • Place of publication : Rome, Italy

  • Pages : 126-133

  • Language(s) : English

  • Abstract : The term “vitamin A (VA) fiasco” refers to the global programme for universal VA supplementation, which has been challenged for its validity and wisdom. The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) situation presents an example where VA supplementation has vied with food-based approaches for resources. The FSM has experienced many lifestyle changes since the 1970s, including a shift to imported processed foods and neglect of traditional foods. This led to serious health problems, including VA deficiency, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In 1998 efforts were initiated to identify FSM foods that might alleviate VA deficiency. This led to discovering a yellow/orange-fleshed banana variety, Karat, containing 2 230 μg/100 g of the provitamin A carotenoid beta-carotene, 50 times more than in white-fleshed bananas. Other Micronesian yellowand orange-fleshed carotenoid-rich varieties of banana, giant swamp taro, breadfruit and pandanus were later identified, also containing rich contents of vitamins and minerals. In a global health study led by the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment, the Pohnpei, FSM traditional food system was documented. A two-year communitybased, interagency, intervention was implemented, focused on increasing local food production and consumption. Multiple methods were used, including awareness, workshops, horticulture, cooking classes, mass media, posters, print materials, postal stamps, youth clubs, school activities, farmers’fairs, competitions, email and slogans: “Go Yellow” and “Let’s Go Local”. Results showed an increase in banana and taro consumption, varieties consumed, and improved attitudes towards local food. Carotenoid-rich banana varieties including Karat, which had not previously been marketed, became regular market items. Local food take-outs not previously sold became common sale items. The campaign stimulated great interest as an awareness success in FSM and throughout the region, stimulating interest to applying this approach to other Pacific islands. The campaign could, however, have a greater impact with greater allocation of resources to this food-based approach.


  • Open access : Yes

  • Document on publisher's site : open View article on publisher's site

  • Musalit document ID : IN130073

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