An easy-to-use iron supplement, made by food giant Heinz, has significantly reduced cases of anemia in children, according to the company.
'Supplefer Sprinkles', developed by a Canada-based researchers and backed by Heinz, contain iron, vitamin C and other nutrients and are packaged in a single-dose sachet to be 'sprinkled' onto food.
A recent study, published in the Canadian Paediatric Society's Paediatrics & Child Health journal on February 28, has revealed the success of the product worldwide and is being publicised for Anemia Awareness Week in Canada (March 24-28 2003).
Dr Stanley Zlotkin, a senior scientist in The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto, Canada and author of the research said: "Iron-deficiency anemia continues to be a pervasive and largely unaddressed global health problem, affecting more than two billion people or roughly one third of the world's population."
He added that even in Canada and the United States, around 5 per cent of children aged one to five suffer from IDA. The 'breakthrough nutritional supplement' (Supplefer Sprinkles) could address this issue.
Dr Zlotkin is aiming to make Supplefer Sprinkles globally available for infants and children. With support from Health Canada, he is currently assessing the efficacy of the product among the First Nations and Inuit populations of Canada where the prevalence of IDA is as high as 32 per cent. Trials are underway in Northern Canada and in communities where iron-rich foods are expensive and not readily available.
An efficacy study has also been conducted in Ghana, West Africa, between 1998-2001. In these studies, Supplefer Sprinkles were shown to successfully treat anemia among 60-75 per cent of infants within two months, according to Zlotkin. The sprinkles also were shown to be well tolerated by infants with few side effects and were well accepted by caregivers who found them easy to use.
The sprinkles are also being evaluated in programs in China, India, Mongolia and Pakistan.
Supplefer Sprinkles are inexpensive to produce and are packaged in a single-dose sachet that does not require special measuring or handling, according to Heinz. Each sachet is designed to be sprinkled or stirred into any food, including rice, barley, congee or porridge, without affecting color or taste. The product is an alternative to iron drops, long-known for low compliance since they have a metallic taste, may cause abdominal pain and can stain teeth.
The H.J. Heinz Company Foundation is funding Sprinkles projects over three years, with a C$1.2 million grant, and Heinz is providing technical assistance and significant financial support.