Colleagues from FAO,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed a pleasure for me to address this important meeting of the Regional Expert Consultation of the Asia Pacific Network for Food and Nutrition on Food Composition Activities. I would like to welcome all of you, on behalf of FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and on my own behalf, to this meeting at the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
Since the UN Conferences of the 1990s, in particular the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN) in 1992 and the World Food Summit (WFS) in 1996 and the WFS: fyl in 2002, governments have affirmed their commitment to achieving food security for all and the immediate goal of halving the number of undernourished people by 2015. This has been further reiterated in the Millennium Development Goals.
The theme of this year’s Consultation is “Food Composition Activities”. Food composition activities have been receiving increasing attention in recent years as we are faced with newer and expanded uses for food composition data. The importance of food composition data has long been recognized by the United Nations. In fact, when FAO was established 57 years ago, data on food composition immediately began to play a role in the Organization’s activities. The early development of the World Food Surveys was linked to such data, and, over the years, FAO’s support for agricultural planning and production has relied on knowledge about the nutritional value of foods. Moreover, data on food composition has always been crucial when providing assistance to governments that are determining the nutritional adequacy of national diets and nutritional status of their people.
In recognition of the need for renewed and collaborative food composition work, FAO and the United Nations University (UNU) have established a close working relationship. The International Network of Food Data Systems (INFOODS) was established in 1984 on the basis of the recommendations of an international group convened under the auspices of the UNU with the goal of stimulating and coordinating efforts to improve the quality and availability of food analysis data worldwide and to ensure that anyone anywhere would be able to obtain adequate and reliable food composition data. From its inception, INFOODS has recognized FAO’s early development and contribution to the dissemination of regional food composition tables.
FAO has been committed to improving the quality and availability of food composition data and, in particular, enhancing its applications for promoting food security and nutrition. Along with UNU, FAO has been involved in promotion of the INFOODS project.
The FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific has been active in promoting the regional food composition activities as part of its regional programme under the Asia Pacific Network for Food and Nutrition (ANFN). FAO also works with regional partners and has facilitated several expert consultations for ASEAN FOODS, SAARC FOODS and more recently with the establishment of NEASIAFOODS. It is gratifying that this regional expert consultation of the ANFN on food composition activities is a part of this effort.
Reliable data on the nutrient composition of foods consumed by people are critical in many areas, namely diet and nutritional assessment, the formulation of appropriate institutional and therapeutic diets, nutrition education, food and nutrition training, epidemiological research on relationships between diet and disease, plant breeding, nutrition labeling, food regulations, consumer protection and agriculture, as well as for a variety of applications in trade, research, development and assistance. These applications are also central to the issue of food and nutrition security which is concerned with the availability and accessibility to food in both the quantities and qualities required to support an active, productive and healthy life. This requires that consideration be given to examination of the nutrient composition of foods, diets and commodities.
Your task at this consultation will provide FAO and its member countries with an update of the food composition activities in the region, develop strategies for enhancing the quality and quantity of food composition data and provide guidance towards the development of better methodologies and procedures for food composition. You will also be examining the usage of food composition data in a wide range of areas such as evaluating diets and food preparations, including considerations of its use in trade, preservation of agro-biodiversity, and risk reduction for chronic diet related diseases.
Countries need more detailed information about the nutrient composition and the nutritional value of foods, and this has led to enhanced legislation regarding nutrition information on foods. Food manufacturers are attempting to respond to this need by seeking new formulations of foods in consonance with current health and nutrition recommendations, which require updated information on the composition of foods and their ingredients. Moreover, the global nature of food processing and the expansion of food trade have increased the likelihood of greater food trade across international borders. This necessitates the need for nutrition labeling and regulation related to food trade and exchange. Accurate data are also needed to show the links between food and nutritional status and to design interventions, meet regulatory standards, appropriately label foods and assist in product formulation.
Reliable and updated food composition statistics are vital for national planning and policy making on food security and nutrition. From a strategic viewpoint, FAO is intensifying support for the development and implementation of policies aimed at improving access to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and safe food. It is also assisting in food consumption and diet surveys, in training national personnel, and in the analysis and dissemination of food and nutrition statistics by working with other international and technical agencies to facilitate cross–sectoral analyses. In this regard, FAO along with other national and international partners, facilitated the International Conference on Dietary Assessment Methods (ICDAM) in January 2003 that addressed the need for improved dietary assessment methods in relation to health, disease and food security.
While there is no single formula to ensure food security, the production, distribution, preparation, processing and ultimately consumption and utilization of food are some of the key elements. In the next four days you will be addressing issues related to the quality and quantity of food composition data and will make recommendations on how to facilitate the process of appropriate food composition data exchange in the region. Allow me to emphasize that, ultimately, the analysis and utilization of the data are our overriding concerns. The quality, timeliness and reliability of the information available to farmers, scientists, government planners, industry, traders and non-governmental organizations is crucial to making rational decisions on planning, investment, marketing, research and training.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that FAO looks forward to your continued co-operation with the Asia Pacific Network for Food and Nutrition. I wish you success in your discussions and I am confident that with your expertise, you will work towards strengthening your efforts along with FAO in its commitment towards meeting the goals of eliminating hunger and malnutrition in the world, in particular in the Asia and Pacific region. In the midst of your busy schedules, I hope you have a chance to enjoy the well-known Thai hospitality and experience the charm of its people and culture.
Thank you for your kind attention.