by Marion Nestle
Mar 16 2011

How come a private company is funding national nutrition surveys in Asia?

I was surprised to read a report in that a private company is about to conduct an enormous—and undoubtedly very expensive—study of the nutritional status of children in Southeast Asia.

The study will collect data from more than 16,000 children aged 12 and under in four countries:

  • Dietary profiles and nutrient intake assessment, including food intake, bone density and cognition.
  • Iron status, vitamins, lipid profile and blood pressure.
  • Body composition and physical activity, including measurements on weight, height and hand grip strength.

The company is doing this in partnership with institutions in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Why would a private company embark on a project like this?  The company is FrieslandCampina, a Dutch firm specializing in dairy products:

We provide people around the world with all the good things milk has to offer, with products that play an important role in people’s nutrition and well-being.

Our product range: baby and infant food, milk-based drinks, cheese, milk, yoghurts, desserts, butter, cream, milk powder, dairy-based ingredients and fruit-based drinks.

As the company explains, “We aspire to help people move forward in life with our dairy nutrition, and are committed to helping our consumers maintain and improve their nutritional well-being with the goodness of milk.”

I’m willing to predict that these studies will show that kids in Southeast Asia would be a lot healthier if they drank more milk.   And will find reasons to dismiss concerns that lactose intolerance is the norm in Asian populations over the age of five or so.

  • Anthro

    Thanks for turning that slimy rock over and exposing the cesspool underneath.

  • quan

    This reminds me of the Paxil marketing campaign that Ethan Watters talk about in his book, “Crazy Like Us.” First, it was the collection of data and scientific query on depression in Japan for the sake of science, sponsored by the maker of Paxil. Then the information collected were used to prove to the Japanese people that they need to be antidepressants, like Paxil.

  • Sarah

    Ditto to Anthro’s comment – thanks! How bad for the earth, animals, and people’s health if they succeed.

  • Doc Mudd

    “The company is doing this in partnership with institutions in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.”

    What ‘institutions’ are you referring to? Are they so unimportant they warrant no mention, or so evil their names mustn’t be spoken aloud?

    Do you really think you can force your orthorexic nanny state agenda across all of Southeast Asia?

    You blithely suspect a research collaboration’s intentions…we easily recognize yours. Pre-bashing…very efficient!

  • Anthro

    @Doc Mudd

    Are you high?

    What does anything in this post have to do with your so-called “nanny state”? Is this just a generic screed you robo-post on any blog related to sane public health policies?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

  • It looks like they are observing potential new markets´ option. I can not see anything wrong on it. What bothers me more is what they are going to find out… I think, even for ordinary people is more then clear that condition of food in Southeast Asia region is far bellow the average on we are used to. Hopefully it will bring some improvement for them.

  • My first thought?

    They are researching children under 12 and they they make infant formula. Oh dear.

    There are the red flags of “iron”, “cognition”, “vitamins”, and “weight.”

    Looking deeper into their site, they make the infant formula “Friso” which is specifically marketed in Asia.

    The good? Their Malaysia specific site theoretically prevents anyone but doctors from accessing their information on infant formula. However while looking up nutritional info it seems it is very easy for moms to get free samples.

    The bad? Their new product is “mother” formula. And they are pulling out the wild claims that it will boost your immunity and therefore your unborn/breastfeeding child’s. Plus the product is overflowing with iron; the recommended dosage has more than 100% of your daily needs.

    They seem to be trying to stave off that pesky lactose intolerance issue with the fact that they create follow-on formula for ages up to 9! Seems to me they are creating research to fit the products. Predicting the conclusion of horribly undernourished South Asian children who are not getting enough iron or DHA. Promptly to be plastered on their pre-infant formula and their follow-on formula where the rules are looser and hoping that those who will take their mommy formula will follow it up with baby formula.

  • Its obvious this Company will make a case that the entire region needs their products. Typical business 101 Create a problem, scare the population, Provide the solution. make money