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Bull World Health Organ. 1993;71(1):79-92.

Contaminated weaning food: a major risk factor for diarrhoea and associated malnutrition.

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  • 1Food Safety Unit, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.


Infections and the malnutrition associated with them are responsible for a significant proportion of the 13 million deaths among infants and children under 5 years of age worldwide each year. After respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases are the commonest illnesses and have the greatest negative impact upon the growth of infants and young children. The causes of diarrhoeal diseases have traditionally been ascribed to water supply and sanitation. In attempts to prevent such diseases, efforts by governments and nongovernmental organizations have been focused on and sometimes limited to improving water supply and sanitation as well as promoting and protecting breast-feeding. Based on studies reported in the literature, this review article demonstrates that weaning foods prepared under unhygienic conditions are frequently heavily contaminated with pathogens and thus are a major factor in the cause of diarrhoeal diseases and associated malnutrition. In the light of the evidence presented, it appears that current efforts are not sufficient to prevent diarrhoeal diseases: education of mothers in food safety principles, particularly weaning food, must also receive high priority. Educational programmes based on the hazard-analysis-critical-control-point approach, taking into consideration also sociocultural factors, should be integrated into all national infant feeding or food and nutrition programmes.

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