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PROBLE1~:S OF FOOD SUPPLY, FOOD HABITS, AND NUTRITION IN CHINA* FEBRUARY ~ I, 1943 At this conference several papers were given on the present food prob- len~s in China, the existing plans for meeting food shortages in other coun- tries after the war, and the ways in which these plans might be adapted in order to give the most effective help possible to China. Mr. Owen Dawson, Agricultural Attache, State Department, discussed the Chinese food supply. At the present time, due to floods, famines, and dis- tribution problems, outstanding shortages are one million tons each of wheat and rice and 300,000 tons of soy beans. These shortages are not distributed evenly over the whole country, however, and compared with pre-war sup- plies, which showed some deficiencies also, there is relatively sufficient food in Free China. The difficulties there are primarily problems of distribution which caused the famines in four areas during the past year. There has been some difficulty in collecting enough food for the army and civilian employees. In Occupied China there are great deficiencies due to poor crops and floods, and in addition there is very little organization to meet the problems of collecting, marketing, storage, and distribution in particular. There is little possibility of sending food to China now, but when it can be sent in they will need quantities of wheat, wheat products, soy beans, and rice, and small quantities of dairy products, meats, marine products, and a few concentrated vitamin supplements. Dr. Gwei-Djen Lu, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia Uni- versity, discussed the particular problems of each of the three parts of China, starting with the informatioin collected before the war. The West, or Free China, used to be a rice-eating region, but because of the influx of people from many other parts of the country now is a region with mixed food habits. There have been only occasional reports of nutritional conditions from Free China recently, but according to the impression of various medical men there were no serious food deficiencies. It is the most fertile country in China. In the north, wheat and maize are the staple foods. Millet and kaoliang (sorghum) are also used. Soy bean products are being used throughout the country. There has been much deficiency in Vitamin D and calcium and some proteins. Past findings were that there was severe Vitamin B and B. de- ficiency in the south, evidenced by chronic and acute beriberi. In addition there were also mild deficiencies in Vitamin A, B complex, and C, although southerners did not get rickets, probably because of the sunshine. There have been several reports since ~937 on Vitamin C deficiency in every part of China. * See minutes of Conference of Committee on Food Habits' February IT2 1943, under same title. 165
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I66 The Problem of Changing Food Habits After Ugly, the data obtained from a nation-wide survey of food made by the Extension Division of the Agriculture Department in Ranking was used to calculate the Vitamin B. intake. The results of the study showed that beriberi was prevalent in the south where the B. intake was below Ho I.U. daily, but did not occur in the north where Vitamin B. intake was over this amount from their staple food, rice or wheat. The acute form of the disease beriberi is precipitated also by the climate in the south. People in this area lose the water soluble vitamins from the body more quickly during the hot days. One of the greatest difficulties in getting sufficient Vitamin B into the diet in the south is that the people cannot eat whole rice. It takes three times as long to cook, does not taste good, causes discomfort, and is incompletely utilized. Grinding is one way to overcome some disadvantages but adults always use rice in grain form. However, a ground rice paste with the ~rita- mins preserved by fractional sterilization, and prepared by adding the juice front cooked greens, was developed for babies who will eat it if they have known nothing else. When a baby is four months old, egg yolk is added to furnish more nutrients, and in some cases cod liver oil, a few drops daily, is supplemented. An experimental attempt to feed boys coming into the factories from the country districts showed that an adequate diet could be furnished even on the extremely meager money allowance. Rice was the mainstay, and if milled without washing it would contain enough Vitamin B. but had to be used immediately to prevent deterioration. Other food requirements were sup- plied by providing vegetables, either sprouted or pickled, and proteins from meat, fish, or eggs. Dr. Lu's suggested solution of the rice problem is that the whole rice with the husk be stored, and partially milled only very shortly' before needed. This would mean that all the large feeding places, particularly those con- trolled by the army, government, schools, and factories, would have to be organized with this plan well understood. The afternoon session of the meeting was devoted to a discussion of the present plans in this country for emergency and long-term feeding, and the possible usefulness of such foods to the Chinese. Dr. Lu thought that the Chinese would be glad to eat the emergency ration * which is being developed, except for the cheese which not over no% would enjoy. She suggested that certain foodstuffs needed in Europe not be sent to eastern Asia, where the people could use other foods. Cocoa, for example, would be preferred by the Europeans. Among the products which will be needed in (China are rice, wheat, peanuts, soy beans, butter, milk or other animal proteins; e.g., eggs and fish products, which will help to correct the serious Vitamin A and-other deficiencies. Vitamin A deficiency occurs at present and even in normal times in almost all areas of the country. Of these needed products, the rice supply in this country is very low at present, while fish meal is used only for fertilizers and the process of making it has not been sufficiently per * See report of the Liaison Session of the Committee on Food Habits, January 23, ~943, "Feeding liberated countries and nutrition education," for description of rations.
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Food Sup ply, Food Habits, and Nutrition in China ~67 fected to furnish it for human consumption. Dr. Lu suggested that soy beans and peanuts be shipped separately because the Chinese have hundreds of uses for them which would not be possible if they were combined. She thought the best way to meet the egg shortage would be to send laying hens for developing the poultry and egg industry. If eggs are not exported after the war from the large producing centers in Occupied China, there may be plenty for home consumption. Other substitute foods were considered. Bone meal, made from the bone marrow, is used in some combinations in China, and might be a food which would be accumulated in this country as most bone at present goes into animal food or fertilizer. Although millet has better vitamin content than wheat it was not considered a good alternate. There is not a great deal of it and its use is limited. There was some debate over whether wheat should be sent as flour, which would be easier than sending it as grain, and as what kind of flour. Since white flour has been sent into parts of China after other famines, it has higher prestige and a better flavor to the people, so that those who have had it prefer no other kind. There is danger that the white flour habit might be fastened upon the Chinese. Enriched flour is hardly the solution because Chinese methods of cooking wheat flour noodles involve discarding the liquid in which they were boiled. Suggestions for meeting this problem were that data on the percentage of people eating wheat should be collected (as is being done) and that the acceptability of whole wheat might be determined by trying it with Chinese groups in this country.