Quality characteristics and acceptability of low cost weaning blends by Zambian mothers
Stunting, and to a lesser extent wasting and undernutrition, of children under five years constitutes a serious health problem in Zambia. Although non-nutritional causes such as infection and poverty importantly exacerbate these conditions, improvements in the diets of children is vital for better health. The age interval beginning at about six months is an especially vulnerable time for children, when they are being weaned from breast milk to conventionally used cultural foods. The current study reports assessments by mothers of nine experimental weaning mixtures, formulated by computer to be low cost and nutritionally superior to maize meal alone. An incomplete block design with randomization was used to compare the nine weaning food blends, differentially constituted to address specific conditions. One group of 127 mothers (or guardians) of children 6 to 27 months judged cooked porridges prepared from the blends. The alternate group of 140 mothers of children from 5 to 30 months evaluated characteristics of uncooked porridge ingredients. Statistical analyses of hedonic scale ratings and tabulation of mothers’ voluntary comments were performed. With few exceptions, blend macronutrient/energy characteristics generally conformed to proposed standards in Codex Alimentarius and other literature guidelines. Mixture levels of 20 vitamins and minerals were estimated. A rice-containing formula was most expensive and a high maize/moderate soy formulation the least costly in price assessment. Acceptability results showed that in addition to maize meal and nonfat dry milk, the most acceptable mixtures contained bambara nuts or soybeans as chief ingredients. Blends with substantial percentages of millet, sorghum, or kapenta were not ordinarily acceptable. It was observed that all four cooked porridge quality factors were significantly (p ≤ 0.01) related with each other, and that both ingredient set rating categories were likewise significantly (p ≤ 0,01) related. It is emphasized that nutrient contributions of the weaning mixtures are meant for further complementation by concurrent feeding of breast milk, by appropriate use of micronutrient powders or lipidbased micronutrient spreads, and by market or home produced foods. Acceptability results of this study may be influenced by factors such as commodity cost variations, food donations, mother education, and processing cooperatives.
Key words: Weaning foods, nutrition, ingredients, porridges, quality, mothers,
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