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Letter on cooking in iron pots, by Rita Bhatia

Pots and Pans

Dear Field Exchange

When recently thinking about a proposal on micro- nutrient initiatives for refligee women, I was reminded of a special after-dinner treat we sometimes eat in India. It is 'jaggery' which are the molasses formed when refining sugar. When cooked for a long time in iron woks it solidifies into cakes. This process improves shelf life. Grandma's reasoning was that "Jaggery is very rich and healthy and gives strength and blood". When I think of it now it makes sense, Jaggery is rich in IRON because of long continuous cooking in a crude iron wok.
UNHCR currently provides aluminium cooking pots and pans. So I was wondering whether providing iron pots and pans may help to combat anaemia. This made me remember grandma as well - who is no longer with us.

I discussed some of my thoughts on this, with a colleague at WEP who requested confirmation through the literature or experience that the use of iron pots in cooking could have a siguificant effect on haemoglobin levels of women and children. Through further networking we discovered that UNICEF have been involved in a study in Ethiopia which found that cooking with iron pots resulted in an equivalent improvement in iron status to that achieved with iron supplementation. We have asked around among our colleagues and found that there is not much published information on this phenomenon.

A number of us feel that it would be a good idea to run a pilot study to see whether cooking in iron pots and pans does actually affect the iron status of a test group. Of course we need to carefully think through the methodology before we can formalise such a trial. However, if we can reduce anaemia prevalence by replacing the aluminium pots currently supplied, with iron pots --- well maybe I'll start to take other things Grandma said a little more seriously.

Yours, etc,
Rita Bhatia, UNHCR

Dear reader,

This is yet another way you can get involved, and for those of you who are up to your eyes, with your sleeves rolled up, probably the simplest. The letters section is the 'anything goes' part of the newsletter. If you have useful tips, or want to air specific frustrations we want to hear about them.

You can also share your impressions, opinions, scepticism or reservations about much broader issues to do with emergencies. You can comment on this issue's contributions: support or refute impressions or findings based on your own experience. Remember do let us know your area of work, and if you want a prompt response, a contact address is useful. Now you know the score so post, phone, fax, E-mail, a grubby postcard or note in a floating bottle will do.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

The editors

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Reference this page

Rita Bhatia (1997). Letter on cooking in iron pots, by Rita Bhatia. Field Exchange 1, May 1997. p16. www.ennonline.net/fex/1/letters2