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Food Briefs

Vision Program Saves Children's Lives, Too

December 12, 1985|DANIEL P. PUZO | Times Staff Writer

A research project devoted to combating blindness in impoverished children from developing countries inadvertently became a life-saver, according to a report of the recently completed program.

As many as 500,000 children worldwide lose their sight each year because of Vitamin A-related deficiencies. In an effort to help solve the problem, a joint task force from the Indonesian government, Helen Keller International and Johns Hopkins University proceeded to administer large doses of Vitamin A by injection to children living in rural Indonesian villages.

The project found that a welcomed side effect of the Vitamin A megadoses was a significant reduction in child mortality rates, according to the World Development Forum, a newsletter from the San Francisco-based Hunger Project.

More than 30,000 children between the ages of 1 and 6 were included in the study. The nutritional supplement, which costs 35 cents per dose, was administered twice annually.

Researchers found that the death rate of those who received the vitamin was 35% below that of a similar group which did not receive the inoculation, the newsletter reported.

One of the project's participants, Prof. Alfred Sommer, of Johns Hopkins, stated that "Vitamin A appeared to be necessary in order to create the healthy mucous membrane that lines the respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts which are the major areas where bacteria can enter the body."

Consequently, children suffering from Vitamin A deficiency are not as likely to fight off life-threatening bacterial infection.

The joint effort, funded in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development, will now attempt to determine whether the findings from Indonesia can be implemented in other areas of the world plagued with nutritional deficiencies.

Lack of Wine Consciousness--Most Americans are uninterested in learning about wines or even remembering the different brands, according to a recent consumer survey commissioned by the state's wine makers.

There was little for the wine industry to applaud in the report except for the fact that more people (35%) rated California wines excellent than did those who felt the products from France (29%), Germany (24%), Italy (19%) or Spain (5%) were superior.

More revealing perhaps is that 70% of those queried said that they are not interested in trying to remember the many divergent styles of wine. An overwhelming majority, 82%, said they stick with "a few wines they know and like" and are thus not inclined to experiment with unfamiliar brands.

On the simplest equation of what attracts consumers to the various varietals, 90% said that all they want is "a wine that tastes good."

Making things even more trying for the industry is the fact that people who do drink wine are often difficult to reach through conventional information sources. In fact, those surveyed are not getting the latest wine articles. Only 15% said they read wine articles in magazines, 8% said they read similar stories in newspapers and only 6% read wine books.

The summary of the report concluded: "Most wine drinkers are not very interested in either wines or their lore, or in learning more about them."

Part of the problem is that consumers are intimidated by the wine selection process and tend to stick with safe, previous choices or recommendations from friends, the survey stated.

The study suggested that wine makers seek new avenues for reaching the public by conducting more information programs through restaurants and wine stores.

Sawdust and Cheese--The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted a temporary permit to a Newburg, Ohio, company that clears the way for the test marketing of a revolutionary new cheese.

The agency approved the Great Lakes Cheese Co.'s request to begin distribution of a newly formulated grated cheese which contains powdered cellulose, a highly processed form of wood-based saw dust. The firm states that the unusual ingredient is being used as an anti-caking agent.

The action is precedent setting because the combination of powdered cellulose with grated cheese is the first commercial pairing between the wood-based substance and dairy products. However, the ingredient has been used since the mid-1970s in so-called high-fiber breads, the first of which was Continental Baking Co.'s Fresh Horizon.

Watching Sacramento--When the state Legislature reconvenes early next month, there are a number of food-related bills awaiting action by the Assembly or Senate, according to the Grocers Journal of California.

Some of the more controversial legislation to be considered includes a prohibition on the use of the phrase "fresh frozen" on meat, poultry or fish; mandatory deposits on glass beverage containers and the elimination of the sales tax exemption for candy.

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