The composition of one's diet is fundamental to good nutrition and health. And knowing what we eat is essential to dietetics and food science, as well as for biodiversity, agriculture production, and the food industry.
The West African Food Composition Table, a new publication by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), details the composition of 472 foods from the Western Africa region. The publication even includes nutrient data on the various ways foods are prepared (i.e. boiled, grilled, and stewed) and biodiversity information on local food varieties/cultivars.
Western Africa faces many food related challenges, including significant micronutrient malnutrition and increasing rates of obesity and diet related chronic diseases. Malnutrition not only puts at stake the lives of the most vulnerable, and particularly women and children, but also hampers the social and economic development of nations. Knowing the composition of foods in the region will help address these important issues. In addition, relevant, reliable and up-to-date food composition data is necessary for local and international agriculture markets and thus farmer livelihoods.
"The West African Food Composition Table is an essential resource. It will be used to inform strategies to combat malnutrition through food based solution, help with food labeling, and provide the scientific evidence base for better policies in the health, nutrition, environmental management, and nutrition sensitive agriculture," said Dr Ruth Charrondiere, FAO's Nutrition Officer and INFOODS coordinator.
The West African Food Composition Table was developed by FAO in collaboration with the West African Health Organization (WAHO) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Bioversity International, and INFOODS. This important publication represents a fruitful partnership among numerous international organizations, academia and research institutions, nutrition experts, and governments throughout the region. It also supports the efforts of AFROFOODS call to action for the return to local crops and traditional food systems for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
The West African Food Composition Table (Table de composition des aliments d'Afrique de l'Ouest) is available in both English and French and can be downloaded for free from the INFOODS website. Printed versions can be ordered from the FAO publications catalogue.