XXI IUNS-ICN Congress “From Science to Nutrition Security” 22 – 27 Oct 2017 – progress news

The XXI IUNS-ICN Congress (taking place 22 – 27 October 2017), whose motto is “From Science to Nutrition Security” is initializing the contacts to define the International Scientific Committee and a meeting was held to coordinate such endeavor on the 19th October 2014 in Buenos Aires under the chairmanship of the SAN group leaded by Dr. Mabel Carrera.

The main session tracks initially foreseen and the following:

  1. Advances in nutrition research //Avances en la investigación de la nutrición.
  2. Nutrition through the life course // La nutrición a través del curso de la vida.
  3. Nutrition and public health and environment  // Nutrición y salud pública y medio ambiente.
  4. Nutrition and disease management  // Nutrición y manejo de enfermedades.
  5. Nutrients and nutritional assessment  // Nutrientes y valoración nutricional.
  6. Functional foods and bioactive compounds // Alimentos funcionales y compuestos bioactivos.
  7. Practices nutrition education and food culture  // Prácticas de cultura alimentaria y educación nutricional.
  8. Agriculture, food science and safety // Agricultura, ciencia de los alimentos y la seguridad.

Highlights from the 20th International Congress of Nutrition (ICN), Granada 2013

The 20th edition of the International Congress of Nutrition took place in Granada, Spain, from 15th to the 20th September 2013. Organised by the International Union of Nutritional Sciences and the Spanish Society of Nutrition, this largest event of its kind brought together over 4,000 scientists from over 120 countries, for 6 days of lectures, symposia and debates dedicated to the latest scientific evidence on topics of food and nutrition. The European Food Information Council has interviewed a number of key scientists to create this podcast with conference highlights.

Click Here to read more 

Pan American Health Organization’s Publications Program recent title, “Nutrition and an Active Life: From Knowledge to Action.

Pan American Health Organization’s Publications Program recent title, “Nutrition and an Active Life: From Knowledge to Action.”:

The Pan American Health Organization’s Publications Program is pleased to present to you its most recent title, “Nutrition and an Active Life:  From Knowledge to Action.”
“Nutrition and an Active Life: From Knowledge to Action” is an anthology produced by leading public health experts from the Pan American Health Organization and the international development community.  The book’s selections focus on how research in nutrition and the promotion of active lifestyles can provide vital input for the creation of public policy and planning and for the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of programs.

This publication, written by leading international public health professionals, highlights 13 case studies on a variety of topics including control of vitamin A deficiency, folic acid fortification of bread, control of iodine deficiency disorders, and the contribution of research to infant breast-feeding policies, as well as successful community projects to promote increased physical activity and the role of urban planning and public transportation in reducing the prevalence of sedentary lifestyles, among other important topics.  “Nutrition and an Active Life: From Knowledge to Action” will become an important resource on best practices at the national and community levels for professionals working in health promotion, maternal and child health, nutrition, fitness, social marketing, and public health education.

“Nutrition and an Active Life: From Knowledge to Action” is an important contribution that should be of particular interest to practitioners, researchers, and decision-makers in the fields of health promotion, community education, nutrition, maternal and child health, physical activity, policy development in public health and urban planning, social communications, and other related areas.

Healthy Eating Club:

Dr. Mark Wahlqvist is the editor-in-chief of this site and Dr Antigone Kouris is the Managing Editor.  The main focus of the site is the on-line nutrition short course for the general public.  As far as they know, it is the only site currently offering a reputable on-line course in nutrition. The site also has fact sheets, and dietary assessment downloadable tools (food variety checklist, healthy eating pyramid with tickable boxes).

Danone Institute: 

Research, information and education on diet and nutrition.  A non-profit association involving 200 independent scientists in the world.  Their mission is to disseminate scientific knowledge on diet and nutrition to benefit public health.

SEAMEO-TROPMED Community Nutrition Center :

Established in 1967 is a dynamic, self-reliant, and regional institution under the jurisdiction of SEAMEO TROPMED PH (South-East Asian Ministers of Education Organization Tropical Medicine and Public Health) Network dedicated to excellence in education, research and service to the community in nutrition science.

Report on Activities of the Task Force on the Nutrition in Transition

FROM:     Barry M. Popkin, Chair
Carlos Monteiro, Vice Chair
DATE:     October 28, 2005

We feel the Task Force should continue.  The plans are noted below.

International Congress of Obesity

The Task Force met twice over the course of the meeting.  The decision was made by all involved to create a Bellagio + 7 meeting.  That would attempt to accomplish several things:

First it would systematically document dynamics and changes in a set of countries, including countries represented by those on the committee, but also 7-10 other developing countries.  A template is being developed for this initiative and then we will begin to work on which countries to invite, which individuals to involve, etc.

Second, it would critically lay out what is being done in each country to address the shifts of the pattern of the Nutrition Transition toward the stage linked with chronic degenerative diseases, including obesity.

Third, it would look at new emerging cross-cutting issues the committee will define over the next two years.

Fouth, all members wished to remain on the committee and we added two members—one, a young faculty from the Netherlands and the second, an older one from the US.  We are continuously searching for young professionals who fit our goals and criteria of excellence.  We have identified 5 potential young persons and will be watching them and considering them over the next year.

Fifth, the only two persons who could truly take over leadership are Carlos Monteiro and Gail Harrison and my sense is that for now, I remain the best option to keep this moving.

Committee activities June 2004-June 2005

The committee has been very active in a number of countries in pushing forward research and programmatic work in this area but has not undertaken any coordinated cross-national effort during this period. We try to highlight a few of the key initiatives underway linked with our key focal countries and committee members.

Brazil:  Carlos Monteiro lead the Brazilian task force that analyzed the most recent national food and nutrition survey conducted in Brazil in 2002/2003 on a random sample of 48 thousand families. This task force was integrated by researchers and representatives of the MoH and IBGE (the federal office for official statistics in Brazil). The publication of the main survey findings (available from the IBGE site under the title: Pesquisa de Orcamento Familiar 2002/2003) updated the nutrition transition showing increasing obesity rates in the country, particularly in the poorest regions and families, and a shifting of the diet towards increasing fat content, increasing saturated fat content and increasing sugary, salty, processed foods with no changes in the low consumption of fruits and vegetables. This publication had enormous repercussions in the nutrition community and also in the national media, particularly in light of the strong emphasis placed by the federal government on “anti-hunger” measures (Fome Zero program). Carlos also acted as a consultant for the WHO/FAO fruits and vegetables initiative participating in technical meetings in Geneva and Kobe that discussed and proposed ways to implement the initiative in developing countries. In Brazil, Carlos is assisting the federal government and selected municipalities in the implementation of the fruits and vegetable initiative. A recent community trial conducted by Carlos and his group at the University of São Paulo in a poor, underserved area of São Paulo city provided evidence that feasible actions combining education and improvements in the supply of fruits and vegetables can increase significantly the consumption of these foods by low income families. A large-scale replication of the intervention is being planned for the near future.

Mexico: Juan Rivera has led a major initiative to focus a great deal more work on noncommunicable diseases and related risk factors in Mexico.

  • They conducted an analysis of the 1999 Mexican Nutrition Survey which used cluster analysis to identify different dietary patterns. They further studied the association of the dietary patterns with NCD risk factors.
  • They are studying the prevalence of NCD risk factors such as blood lipids, glucose, and insulin in a probabilistic sample of adolescent and adult Mexicans studied in 2000. They are analyzing the nature of the association of the risk factors with BMI and other anthropometric indices.
  • They are participating in a project organized by the FAO Food and Nutrition Division entitled “Assessment of Dietary Changes and their Health Implications in Countries facing the ‘double burden’ of malnutrition”. They are in charge of preparing a document describing the situation and the trends in Mexico using data from several cross sectional surveys on food purchases, diet, anthropometry, chronic diseases and mortality.
  • They are conducting the evaluation of a poverty alleviation program which provides cash transfers as well as nutrition and health services to 5 million low income families in Mexico. Cash transfers are used as incentives for investment in nutrition, health, and education. They are studying the effects of the program on food intakes, body weight and composition, and chronic diseases.
  • They developed a proposal that was pre-selected for funding by ILSI/PAHO/CDC. The project will study the elements in the environment of public schools that promote overweight. With the use of formative research, interventions aimed at changing the environment to promote physical activity and a healthful diet for the prevention of obesity in children will be developed and their effects will be tested.
  • They have acquired funds to conduct this year the third national nutrition survey that will include a random sample of 40,000 households. They will use comparable methodology to the first (1988) and the second (1999) national nutrition surveys, which will allow the study of trends in diet and in under and overnutrition and chronic diseases in the Mexican population.
  • They have created, in collaboration with INTA (Chile) a network of research centers in nutrition in LA with support from UNU/IUNS. The two main Institutions are INTA Chile and INSP Mexico. Fernando Vio (INTA Director) and Juan Rivera are the regional coordinators of the UNU Nutrition Program in LA. The first activity involved a diagnosis of the main nutrition problems and an inventory of research institutions in nutrition, their capacity and their publications conducted in 8 LA countries. As a result of the diagnosis, research priorities were identified and working groups created. Each working group is developing multicenter proposals that will be sent to donors. One major group addresses obesity and chronic diseases. One of the projects is work with Industry in LA to reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids. We have another group dealing with childhood obesity. Each group involves investigators from INTA, INSP and other research institutions in the region.

Geoffrey Cannon:  He has led a worldwide group focused on creating a newer broader vision of nutrition. In addition, he is playing a major role with the World Cancer Research Federation in reviewing diet and cancer relationships within the context of the dynamic worldwide shift in stages of the Nutrition Transition. This Panel has Juan Rivera, a task force member, on it.

United States:  Barry Popkin is leading a group of scholars to develop a beverage guidance system for the US. Given the very high percentage of calories from beverages in the US (over 21%), this is viewed as a key way to continue to fight the obesity increases in that country. Barry Popkin has also presented aspects of the Nutrition Transition at a plenary talk as part of the Sixth International Conference on Preventive Cardiology Iguaçu, Brazil. He also created and received funding for an NIH Roadmap Center on Obesity that features a large component on the nutrition transition and involves 71 faculty members from over 35 departments and six schools on the UNC campus as well as other institutions in the region.

China-United States:  A national conference in China this summer will highlight the nutrition transition and Barry Popkin will be a key plenary speaker. The group is also working with the Chinese Ministry of Health to consider ways to prevent further increases in obesity in China.

South Africa:  With two very active committee members and nutrition viewed as a major concern by the government, Committee members have been most active there. South Africa is a country in transition, experiencing a quadruple burden of disease and the coexistence of both under-and overnutrition often within the same communities, and even within households.

The nutrition transition has been an integral focus of the Food-Based Dietary Guideline process in SA (initiated by Este Vorster in 1997). Since both the coexistence of under-and over-nutrition as well as changes/shifts in dietary intake with development and urbanization from local evidence has been incorporated. Primordial prevention of diseases of lifestyle (e.g., specific attention to intakes of types of fats, legumes and fruit and vegetables and physical activity are incorporated in the health messages). The South African Department of Health officially approved the FBDGs (comprising 11 Guidelines) in 2003, and the professional and national launches took place in 2004. Lesley Bourne was part of the core working group throughout this period and was tasked with/convened the Pediatric FBDGs (PFBDGs ages 0 – 7years). As with the core process all steps outlined in FAO/WHO have been followed and the database is extensive. Este and Lesley have convened over 25 meetings.

Another major issue is the South African leg of the PURE study, in which the health transition of Africans (urban and rural) is monitored over 12 years. Part of this study also monitors the nutrition transition. Este Vorster’s group is handling this.

The South African group has had a great deal to do with the ICN. Dr. Vorster has played a lead role as has Dr. Bourne. The latter has organized the Focus Asia symposium.

A third major issue relates to the linkage of HIV/AIDS and nutrition. It has become a major issue in South Africa.

Thailand:  One major effort was the organization and implementation of the Thai National Food Consumption Survey. A second has been the development in Thailand of a coordinated research agenda on the nutrition transition and cardiovascular disease. There are several agencies involved including national research council, Thailand research fund as well as the National Health

Foundation. Dr. Vongsvat was central to the organization of this as it relates nutrition to CVD and diabetes.

One initiative coming out of this is a large research effort she will lead on the Thai Muslim population related to the identification of the environmental contributing factors of noncommicable diseases.

Morocco:  They have also worked to develop a food based dietary guide. Further, they are working to understand how the Mediterranean diet, viewed as an excellent way to fight obesity in Morocco, is being followed there. There is also a joint Moroccan-Dutch study on  Moroccan women immigrants in the Netherlands.

Attachment A: Members of the International Union for Nutritional Sciences

Task Force on the Nutrition Transition as of September 24, 2005

Dr. Barry M. Popkin, Chair
Professor of Nutrition
Mailing Address
Carolina Population Carolina
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
CB # 8120 University Square
123 W. Franklin St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27516‑3997
Phone:  (919) 966‑1732
Fax:  (919) 966‑9159
 Dr. Carlos A. Monteiro, Vice Chair
São Paulo University
Center for Epidemiological Studies in  Health and Nutrition (NUPENS/USP)
Av. Dr. Arnaldo, 715
01246‑904 ‑ Sao Paulo
Phone:  (55‑11) 64‑6068
Fax: 55‑11‑852‑6748
E-Mail:  carlosam@usp.br
 Dr. Juan Rivera, Director
Center for Research in Population Health
Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica
Av. Universidad 655, Col. Sta. Ma. Ahuacatitlan,
Cuernavaca, Mor. CP 62508 Mexico
Tel/Fax: 011-52‑73‑11‑22‑19
E-mail:  jrivera@insp3.insp.mx
 Dr. Lesley Bourne
National Health & Development Research
Medical Research Council
19070 Tygerberg 7505
South Africa
Phone:  011‑27‑21‑938‑0313
Fax:   011‑27 21‑938‑0342
E-Mail:  lesley.bourne@mrc.ac.za
 Mr. Geoffrey Cannon
Director of Science
World Cancer Research Fund
105 Park St.
London W1Y 3FB
Phone:  011‑44‑171‑343‑4200
Fax:  011‑44‑171‑343‑4201
E-Mail: g.cannon@wcrf.org.uk
 Professor  Dr. Vongsvat Kosulwat
Institute of Nutrition
Mahidol University
Salaya, Phutthamonthon
Nakhon Pathom, Thailand 73170
tel Off: 011-66-2-889-3820/800-238
fax Off: 011-66-2-441-9344
email: grvpt@mahidol.ac.th
Professor  Sabah Benjelloun
Département des Sciences Alimentaires et Nutritionnelles
Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II
BP 6202 Rabat‑Instituts
10101 Rabat, MAROC
Tél: Office: (212) 37 77 17 45
Home:   (212) 37 73 56 22
Fax:    (212) 37 77 81 35
Mobil:212 64 55 07 49
E-Mail: jelloun@iav.ac.ma
 Zhai Fengying, Professor and Head
Department of Public Nutrition
Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety
Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention
29 Nan Wei Road
Beijing, China
Phone:  86‑10‑6304‑1362 /631‑1875
Fax:  011‑86‑10‑63011875
E-Mail:  infh@public.bta.net.cn
 Professor H.H. Vorster
Dept. Home Economics and Dietetics
University of Potchefstroom
Potchefstroom  2520
South Africa
Phone: 011-27-0148 2992469
Fax: 011-27‑148 2992464 or (27‑148) 99 2799
E-Mail:  VGEHHV@puknet.puk.ac.za
 Dr. Gail HarrisonDept. of Community Health Sciences
UCLA School of Public Health
10833 LeConte Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Bus: (310) 825-3738, 206-8444 B Fax: (310) 794-1805
Home: (Phone) 805-496-5886 B (Fax) 805-496-2334
E-mail: gailh@ucla.edu
 Dr. Colleen Doak
Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition and Health
Institute of Health Sciences, Vrije University Amsterdam
De Boelelaan 1085
1081 HV Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Work phone: +31 20 598 9282
Work fax: +31 20 598 6940
Email: colleen.doak@falw.vu.nl
Email for large attachments: colleen.doak@gmail.com
 Home address:
Kapelsteeg 3
1381 XK Weesp
The Netherlands
Home phone: +31 29 441 1290

Brief Report of IUNS Task Force on “Technologies and Nutrition”

(November 2003 – June 2005)

Prof. Mark. L. Wahlqvist, President, IUNS requested Dr. V. Prakash to Chair this Task Force in  November 2003 and  Dr. Prakash  accepted the same.

Address:  Dr. V. Prakash, Director, CFTRI, Mysore-570 020, India
(e-mail: prakash@cftri.com)

Members of the Task Force:
Prof. Ruth Oniango’o, Nairobi, Kenya ( Food, Education Publishing)
(e-mail: oniango@iconnect.co.ke)

Dr. Kalyana Sundaram, Malaysia ( Horticulture/Food/ health Technology)
(e-mail; kalyana@mpob.gov.my)

Dr. Hanifa  Bachou, Kampala, Uganda   (e-mail: sab@africaonline.co.ug)

Ms. Azizah Omar, Malaysia/ Australia (IT)
(e-mail: aoma1@student.monash.edu.au)

Following were interested and upon request by Chair made themselves  available to assist the Task Force as  and when required:

Dr. Venkatesh Iyengar ( Formerly in IAEA, Nuclear Technologist)  USA
(e-mail: gviyengar@biominerals.org)

Dr. Maureen McKay (Monsanto, Chicago/St. Louis) ( Biotechnology)
(e-mail: Maureen.a.mackey@monsanto.com)

Prof. Samuel Sefa-Dedeh, Ghana (ICSU & Ghana; Traditional African Technologies) (e-mail: crspugl@ghana.com)

Dr. Gayle Savige, (Asia Pacific Health & Nutrition Centre, Monash Asia Institute,   Australia (e-mail: gayle.savige@med.monash.edu.au)

A. The Objectives of the Task Force are principally :

  • To generate a Report which would bring together the current understanding of “Technologies with potential to accelerate human development through Food and Nutrition”
  • To develop a proposal, in conjunction with other science and technology partners, for prototype community-based projects which apply the Report Findings.

B. Agenda prioritized for this Task Force are :

1. Food Technology (in conjunction with IUFoST several activities and events are planned (or have taken place).  Some of them are :

  • On-line Education- Joint with IUFoST ( meeting, Nairobi 2002)
  • IUFoST-  12th World Congress of  Food Technology,Chicago, USA,  July 16-20, 2003
  • Post WCCN ( IUNS- World Congress of Clinical Nutrition)- Cairns, Queensland, August,2004

2. Biotechnology
Follow up from the ICSU report on GMF in which IUNS was involved.
3. Information Technology and Telecommunication

  • Industry Partnerships are being pursued
  • Focus on empowerment of  women (eg. Mobile phones through Grameen Bank in Bangladesh)

4.  Energy Conservation
(eg.  Use of solar cookers etc)

  • Environmental advantage and impact of de-afforestation
  • Reduced household pollution and respiratory illness (UNEP Report)
  • Convenience and reduced burden of work for women

C. Way Forward :

 (1)  First meeting, 7 February,2004, Mumbai, India
After taking over as Chair of this  Task Force by Dr. V. Prakash, The  First meeting  was held on 7th February, 2004 at Mumbai  with assistance from Prof. Marika Vicziany of Monash Asia  Institute (an Economist with a focus on poverty and on India) who organized the meeting at Mumbai.

Dr. Prakash invited all the Task Force members and  other resource persons for this meeting. Prof.  Mark L. Wahlqvist, President, IUNS attended this meeting.  Prof. Marika Vicziany and Ms. Azizah Omar were able to present and other members could not attend the meeting because of preoccupation.

The following agenda items were discussed in the meeting:

  • Fixing Priorities for the Year 2004 – 2005
  • Identification of  strategies with particular reference to Africa based on the  Cross-learning experience between Africa and Asia.
  • Bringing out Reports and Activities thereon
  • Matter concerning the  Durban IUNS Conference and Safaris.
  • Proposal on Joint meeting of Chairs of Task Force
  • About workshop on School Children Health and Nutrition
  • Holding Workshops and Symposia by IUNS Task Force on Technologies and Nutrition- selection of Topics, dates and venues during the next 3 Years (from 2004-2006)
  • Preparation of Report on Task Force meeting for  publication in “ Asia Pacific journal of Clinical nutrition” (ongoing)

The meeting deliberated a large number of issues as mentioned  above  and Prof. Mark L.  Wahlqvist briefed the committee on many areas and the following are the major points that were highlighted :

(a)    Review:

  • Brief of IUNS website
  • 1st meeting in Nairobi with Prof. Ruth  Oniango’o as the Chair
  • Interaction with Hanifa (Information Technology and Nutrition in Africa)
  • First 50 graduates – major work force in changing Africa in Technology leverage
  • Study center / reviewal linkage
  • “Developing a report to make the case for Technology and Development to show Technology is related to Nutrition”
  • Technology Impact and Nutrition –Food Technology, Information Technology and Biotechnology
  • Energy – renewable and sustainable/ economic factor
  • Technology for water / food – needs to be  addressed in tandem
  • Fortification and  Biofortification ( role of CFTRI)

(b)  Products / databases and  outreach

  • IUNS  Technical Reports
  • A policy statement can come out with an agreed statement
  • How technology can relate to nutrition  region wise
  • Multimedia super corridor (Malaysia  as an example)
  • Product profile

Ex: (i) Energy food

(ii) Protein biscuits

  • Food based approach and  Nutrition
  • Micronutrients –  Iron,  Folic, Vit A /  zinc,  Iodine
  • Coarse grains and cereals (availability)

(c )  Special issue of Journal  of  APJCN:
Title : “The Role of Nutrition-linked Technologies in Human Security”

As regards bringing a special volume of APJCN, the committee deliberated in length and  it was suggested to  bring out a special volume incorporating the entire concept of holistic nutrition with the mandate of not only reaching out through ICT but also through sustainability development sustainability nutritional outlook for health and economic development. It would contain about 14 articles of 6 to 8 pages per article perhaps not exceeding about 96 pages. Will contain preface and recommendations along with the articles. Leading Nutritionists have been invited for the articles and is in the press of receiving the articles and finalizing the volume.
(2) Meeting of Chair, Task Force with President, IUNS  November 3-4, 2004,  Mysore, India
The Second Meeting  of the Task Force was held at CFTRI, Mysore, India Under Chair of Dr. V. Prakash   during November 3-4, 2004. For this meeting Prof. Mark L. Wahlqvist was present who came  as a Chief Guest for Nutrition Society of India Symposium conducted by University of Mysore in collaboration with CFTRI from  November 5-6,2004. Dr. P. Ramesh Kumar, Scientist, CFTRI who assisted the meeting. Dr. Prakash  and  Prof. Mark L.  Wahlqvist  discussed  together the  whole perspective  with regard to articles  for  Asia  Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition (APJCN) in a second attempt during this Task Force meeting.  During this course  of the meeting   the Chair has got valuable inputs from Prof. Marika Vicziany through  online. Dr. Prakash and Dr. Mark L. Wahlqvist also  discussed various issues pertaining to   deliberations of CASNA meeting held at CFTRI in the month of August, 2004: Internet Access  and Capacity Building in Africa,  Community Projects with special reference to Rural women entrepreneurship  in Kuppam, Andrapradesh and  Food Proceesing Centre  at B.R.Hills, Karnataka in South India. These 2 places were visited by the IUNS President. Dr. Prakash  indicated that   CFTRI will integrate the community projects  as the  institute has vast experience  in this area. Invited  talks to be given at Durban  Nutrition Safari 2005 were also discussed in the meeting.

(a) Brief on Annual  Meet of Nutrition society of India at CFTRI, Mysore:
The  36th Annual Meet of Nutrition Society of India (NSI)  was held at CFTRI, Mysore from 5-6, November,2004  which was organized by Dept. of Studies in Food Science and Nutrition, University of Mysore, Mysore in collaboration with CFTRI. The Theme of the  Meet is “Bridging the Nutrition  Gap through Value addition”. The meeting had a  total of 1200 Registrants along with more than 1800 participants and the  Key Note Address was  given by Prof. Mark L.. Wahlqvist, President, IUNS.  Dr. V. Prakash has given Presidential address  and emphasized in his speech “If reach out of Nutrition to the Needy matters to us, we shall matter more to reach out”.  Dr. Mark Wahlqvist gave 28th  Gopalan Oration award Lecture entitled “ The Nutrition Science: Solutions  for Development”. Dr. Kamala Krishnaswamy ( President, NSI, India) gave  16th S.G. Srikantia Memorial Award Lecture entitled “Turmeric- “ The  Salt of the Orient is the  Spice of Life”. In addition to these  there are several  Scientific Sessions  with parallel symposia and poster sessions for youngsters. The symposia covered various areas in the fields of   Critical determinants of pregnancy outcome, Community  Nutrition, Experimental Nutrition and  Bridging the Nutrition gap through Value addition with reference to Food Processing, Capacity Building, Traditional knowledge base and Technology Intervention.  In Concluding Session, Dr. Mark Wahlqvist distributed Awards and Certificates to  budding Scientists in the  field of Nutrition.
(3) Next meeting of Task Force, September 2005 at Durban
The next meeting  of this Task Force  is expected  during  18th International Nutritional Congress  to be held at Durban, South Africa during 19-23 September, 2005.

Statement on Benefits and Risks of Genetically Modified Foods for Human Health and Nutrition

Human health is not achievable unless adequate amounts of nutritious and safe foods are available and accessible during all life stages. An estimated one-third of the world’s population, largely in the developing world, is currently food and nutrition insecure.  The biologic imperatives for achieving nutrient and food security, as well as humanitarian concern, are the driving forces behind efforts to achieve equitable food distribution among today’s global population. Food systems, therefore, are challenged to meet current global needs and those of the future in the light of mounting population pressures and rising quality-of-life expectations, while recognizing increasingly limited arable farm resources.  A principle assumption is that the resolution of food and nutrition problems and challenges of today and tomorrow have technological dimensions.  Transgenic modification (GM), traditional and modern, applied to plant and animal food sources (GMFs) hold potential for improving human nutrition and health provided that the capabilities for using GM crops are available in the developing as well as the developed world.  Coexisting with potential benefits of genetic modifications of plants and animals are known and unknown risks, as is common to all technologies, old or new.  Implicit in the latter assumption is that absolute safety is not an achievable standard.

Public discussions surrounding the development and use of applications of modern biotechnology for agriculture are widespread, particularly discussions about the development of GMFs and GMOs and the safety and efficacy of the new products. Public concerns about gene technology lie in four major areas, namely ethical concerns, socio-economic issues, effects on the environment and food safety and human health. Although acknowledging the importance and the interconnectivity of all these areas, the principal focus of this statement is the scientific basis for assessing the risks and benefits to human health of GMFs and GM crops.

Recognizing that the context in which choices are made varies significantly with differences in societies, environments and economies across the world, this statement endorsed by the noted Unions and Committees of ICSU takes no position on appropriate policies that societies should adopt relative to GM food crops based on a review of the scientific knowledge of benefits and risks currently available.  The only assertion made is that the technological dimensions of GM crops merit consideration along with others, for example economic policies such as those that govern global trade and agricultural subsidies.

Traditional breeding techniques, which genetically modify plants and animals, have led to documented contributions to human nutrition and occasionally to unintended health risks.  Transgenically modified plants and animals are projected to give rise to benefits and risks in two broad areas: health and the environment. Four categories of health benefits are recognized: enhancement of food security; enhancement of nutrient security; more targeted health benefits, such as immunization; and reduction of diet related, adult-onset chronic diseases (through the manipulation of specific food components, e.g. manipulation of fat composition). Health risks associated with the approaches that are reviewed generally also fall into four categories – allergies, toxicities, nutrient imbalances, and decreasing diet diversity.

Food quality and human nutrition. Most consumers in rich countries have access to a relatively inexpensive supply of safe and healthy food. In contrast, micronutrient malnutrition is widespread in poor countries, affecting more than one-half of the population in the developing world. The potential benefits of improving the nutritional quality of foods are higher for low‑income countries, where food budgets account for two-thirds or more of total expenditures. The sustainable solution to malnutrition in developing countries is provision of a sufficient quantity of high quality diet. Nutritional and quality traits of foods can be altered through transgenic methods; such biofortification is a low-cost strategy for improving food quality that complements other technological and social interventions. The nutritional efficacy and risks of unintended harmful effects of these products have yet to be tested and demonstrated.

Agricultural practice. Developments in agricultural biotechnology are being used to increase the productivity of crops, primarily by reducing the costs of production. These new crop varieties include insect resistance (cotton, maize), herbicide resistance (maize, soybean), delayed fruit ripening (tomato). The estimated global area of transgenic crops (predominantly with agricultural benefits) for 2001 is 52.6 million hectares grown by 5.5 million farmers in 13 countries. More than one quarter of the transgenic crop area in 2001 was grown in six developing countries. The number of farmers that planted GM crops increased from 3.5 million in 2000 to 5.5 million in 2001.

GMF crops could decrease the cost of production and have positive effects on the environment in both developed and developing countries.  The development of crops resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses is critical for sustainable food production in the developing world. The use of GMF crops should go hand-in-hand with other technologies such as plant tissue culture, marker-assisted breeding and conventional plant breeding. It is, however, prudent that the outcomes and impacts of the use of GMF crops are scientifically monitored with respect to farming efficiency, food production and environmental impacts.

Industrial products and processes.  Crops can be genetically modified to produce oils, starch, fibre, protein or other chemicals useful for industrial processes. For example, soybean oil, with high oleate content, and canola oil, rich in laurate, are both being produced commercially using these methods.  A principal concern is how to use genetic modification technology in a way that gains the advantage of using renewable resources to replace products from petroleum and other non-renewable resources while maintaining a safe and adequate human food supply. It is also crucial to ensure that GM crops designed to produce industrial products do not inadvertently enter the human food chain or contaminate food crops with their transgenes, if these traits may pose a risk to the environment or to human health.

Fish.  Many species of fin fish have been subjected to genetic modification. The present and projected increasing demand for fish suggests that GM fish may become important in future in both the developed and developing worlds. However this will only be possible if consumer acceptance is achieved. No GM fish is known to be produced commercially for food at present, although some are being considered for the food market, and for some regulatory approval is pending.

Livestock and poultry.  Food products derived from GM livestock and poultry are far from commercial use. The methods involved are presently inefficient and expensive. Potential hazards to humans involved in production or when products become part of the food chain, will require careful assessment. There are serious public concerns about the ethics of manipulating domesticated animals and the possible welfare effects

Microorganisms. No genetically modified microorganism is currently used in foods although some are used to produce food ingredients. The safety evaluation of GMM-derived food additives and processing aids should place special emphasis on the detection of possible unintended effects.

Regulation and risk assessment. The process of the development of transgenic organisms presents no new categories of risk compared with conventional methods for improving plants, animals or microorganisms. However, specific traits introduced by either approach might pose unique risks, which need to be identified.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have published regulatory guidelines for GM foods.

Safety assessment of GM foods is carried out on a case-by-case basis, taking the specific modification features into account, and comparing the properties of the new food with those of the traditional counterpart. This comparative approach (substantial equivalence) is based on the assumption that conventional foods are generally considered as safe for consumption and is a starting point for a safety evaluation. Identified differences between the GM food and its counterpart are assessed with respect to their safety and nutritional implications for the consumer.

Present approaches to detecting changes in the composition of GM food crops are primarily based on measuring a limited selection of single compounds. A non-targeted approach using new gene expression technologies can be used.

Safety testing of whole GM foods needs improvement.

Socio-economic aspects relevant to sustainability.  Currently available GMOs may have both positive and negative effects on three indicators of sustainable agriculture and rural development, namely stocks of natural resources and environmental capital, efficiency and equity.  Three policy options are key to the sustainable development, use and control of GM foods, namely intellectual property protection, trade liberalisation and biosafety implementation. The effects of policy options that shape socio-economic conditions are intricate; a policy option that directs socio-economic conditions in one way may affect another policy option that leads in a different direction.

Societal issues and public attitudes. Public perceptions and attitudes about emerging biosciences and other new technologies are critical determinants of how likely it is that the implementation and development of such technologies will succeed. While it is important to develop best practice in science communication pertinent to the risks and benefits of GMFs, this alone will not increase public confidence in gene technology. Rather, it is also important to consider new ways to involve members of the public explicitly in the debate about technology innovation and commercialisation and to improve the relationship and dialogue between science and society.

This statement arises from an independent analysis of the scientific basis for assessing the benefits and risks of genetically modified (GM) crops and food for human health and nutrition led by IUNS and IUTOX in collaboration with a steering committee represented by IUBMB, IUFoST, IUPAC, IUSS, ACOGEB, SCGB, CSFS and invited developing and developed country experts.

Scoping Workshop on Future Activities of ICSU on Food Security

January 25-26, 2002  Paris

Osman Galal, M.D., Ph.D.
Director and Professor
International Health Program
Secretary General, International Union of Nutritional Sciences

The term “food security” originated in the international development literature of the 1960s and 1970s, and at that time (and still in many usage’s) referred to the ability of a country or region to assure an adequate food supply for its current and projected population.  Food supply was measured as dietary energy supply, and issues of distribution and quality of the food supply were generally not considered.  Since that time there has been a great deal of attention to the concept of food security and its determinants within populations and at the household level as well as to issues of measuring food security (or its inverse, food insecurity) at the household level in large surveys.  Additionally, food security as a basic human right has been affirmed by a number of international conventions over the last two decades and elaborated in the international legal literature.

The most commonly accepted definition of food security at this time was promulgated by the Life Sciences Research Organization in 1991, as: “sustained access at all times, in socially acceptable ways, to food adequate in quantity and quality to maintain a healthy life.”  This definition can be operationalized at the individual and household level, and with minor modification can be applied to whole populations.  The definition incorporates several concepts —

  • Access (economic and social)
  • Sustainability or security of access
  • Availability of food supply, both quantitative and qualitative
  • Quality of food supply to include nutritional adequacy and safety

Defined in this way, food insecurity applies to a wide spectrum of phenomena ranging from famine to periodic hunger to worry about safety or security of food.

The definition of food security noted above also recognizes that hunger is a managed process at the household level – that many decisions and management strategies are used to assure food security by households at the expense, where required, of foregoing or postponing utilization of other basic goods and services including medical care, education, and in extreme cases, housing.  Thus stated, food insecurity can be measured and graded in populations; at the present time measures of household food insecurity are being incorporated into large national surveys and determinants and consequences of food insecurity are under active investigation in a number of cultural, ecological and disciplinary contexts.

Assuring food security for the world in the future depends on large-scale issues of food production, processing, and distribution as well as issues of economic and social accessibility within populations.  ICSU, as a federation of international scientific unions, is in an excellent position to focus efforts of the worldwide scientific community toward assuring that the basic human right to food security is met well into the future.  Scientific unions that comprise ICSU include those that deal with natural and human resources in agriculture, genetics, food policy, economics, marketing, food habits and behavior, and human nutrition.  There are few other integrative agendas for the international scientific community with as much commonality and immediate urgency as that of food security.

The closely intertwined problems of poverty, hunger, environmental distress and population increase, continue to press on us, demanding resolution.  Redoubled efforts to develop sustainable agriculture, particularly in the world’s poor regions where agriculture is a main occupation, is vital to their solution.  ICSU federation of international scientific unions is in a position to define and implement a research agenda that is innovative, appropriate, and effective.  This task involves a shift in the research agenda.

The IUNS is partnering with the United Nations Environment Programs (UNEP) and is planning to develop an econutritional solution for human subjects with a focus on the African population.  The aim is to work towards a shift from the food-health paradigm towards an ecological approach for a new policy direction, which takes into account poverty alleviation.  IUNS/UNEP are working together for establishing an environmental monitoring system to reinforce food safety. This activity will include the efforts of IUFoST as a member of the ICSU family.

The IUNS is pursuing a new policy of stressing the fact that regional/national problems need regional/national solutions.  Food security problem is not an exception and needs to be discussed under this notion. It is clear that agriculture reforms to increase food production is important to ensure food security to the millions in the world and must be seen important but it is not sufficient towards achievement of our real goal – the betterment of the human condition.

The role and plans for IUNS as a member of ICSU in dealing with the issue of Food Security will be presented at the workshop by Professor Mark Wahlqvist, the President and Professor Osman Galal, Secretary General. They will also set the stage on how other ICSU members could be involved.

Summary of the scientific evidence on the nature and determinants of child development and their implications for programmatic interventions with young children

Working group: Sally M. Grantham-McGregor (Chairman), Ernesto Pollitt, Theodore D. Wachs, Samuel T. Meisels, and Keith G. Scott

Food and Nutrition Bulletin, vol. 20, no. 10, 1999, The United Nations University

Introductory Statement

Although in recent years there has been a dramatic decrease in child mortality in low-income countries, many surviving children continue to have poor psychosocial and cognitive development. There are extremely limited data on the size of the problem, but it is likely that millions of young children are failing to reach their potential in development. They subsequently are unable to benefit fully from schooling and to become productive citizens. This failure has implications both for the individuals and for national development.

A workshop held in 1991 in Jamaica [1] concluded that there was substantial evidence that poor health and nutrition detrimentally affected children’s development. However, good health and nutrition alone were insufficient to promote optimal child development, and quality of the psychosocial environment was also important. It was the need to look at the children’s development in a holistic way and take an integrated approach to child services that stimulated the subcommittee on Nutrition and Mental Health of the Institute of Child Health, London University, and UNICEF, New York to plan another workshop. The aim of the event was to sensitize senior managers and policy makers to the need for development of programmes that integrated child development, health, and nutrition activities.

The resulting workshop was held at Wye College, Kent, in the United Kingdom, on April 4-8, 1998, and was attended by researchers active in the field of nutrition and child development, UNICEF programme officers from regional and country offices, and representatives from other international agencies and non-governmental organizations. The papers in this issue were presented at the workshop. These papers review the nature of child development and factors that affect it, including health, nutrition, and the environment. The problems in measuring child development and identifying at-risk children are discussed. Case studies of integrated programmes and studies from developing countries are also included. Finally, the economic implications of such programmes are considered.

Following the Wye meeting, a small group of researchers met at UNICEF’s request in New York and wrote a short summary of the scientific evidence on the nature and determinants of child development and their implications for interventions. This summary can be found in this issue after this introductory statement. It is hoped that this issue will contribute to further work on designing and implementing integrated programmes for the promotion of child development in developing countries.

Several people contributed to the planning of the meetings, including David Alnwick, Roger Shrimpton, Ludmila Lhotska, and Marjorie Newman-Williams from UNICEF, and Andrew Tomkins from the Centre for International Child Health, University College, London. Ernesto Pollitt from the University of California, Davis, was particularly helpful in planning the scientific programme. The meeting was funded by UNICEF with a contribution from the International Union of Nutritional Sciences

Sally Grantham-McGregor Editor

At the request of UNICEF, a summary was prepared of the scientific evidence on the nature and determinants of child development and their implications for programmatic interventions with young children. This summary is given below and reflects the views of the authors. We have included well-established points that we think are important as well as adding information that is new both theoretically and empirically

The size of the problem

No figures exist on the number of children with developmental delays (lags in mental, motor, social, and emotional development compared with reference criteria) as a result of poor health and nutrition and poor environments. However, 39% of children under five years of age in low-income countries are growth retarded. Growth retardation is a marker for both disadvantaged environments and developmental risk, and hence it is likely that at least this proportion of children will have poor developmental outcomes. The size of the problem is obviously enormous, but more data are urgently required

The nature of early childhood development

Child development is multidimensional. These dimensions, which are interdependent, include social, emotional, cognitive, and motor performance, as well as patterns of behaviour and health and nutritional status.

The optimal development of children refers to their ability to acquire culturally relevant skills and behaviours that allow them to function effectively in their current context as well as adapt successfully when their current context changes.

Development is multidetermined, varying as a function of nutritional and biomedical status, genetic inheritance, and social and cultural context.

Undernutrition, poor health, and non-optimal caregiving affect a broad range of outcomes, including cognitive, motor, psychosocial, and affective development. For example, children are naturally motivated to explore and to attempt to master their environment. Under nutrition, poor health, and non-optimal caregiving tend to reduce these motivations, which may inhibit development.

The early years of life are essential as the foundation for later development. However, the impact of past and concurrent under nutrition, poor health, and nonoptimal caregiving is not confined to these years. Children’s development is essentially cumulative in nature.

Some developmental trajectories can be made better or worse as a function of influences encountered past the early years

Determinants of child development

The number of risk factors has a cumulative or interactive impact on child development.

The effect of risk factors varies with the age of the child, and their effects, or the results of interventions, may have delayed and not immediate impact.

When resources are limited, the highest-risk individuals in a population should be targeted for intervention. However, it is important to realize that the highest-risk individuals in a population may occur relatively infrequently. Focusing solely on these individuals may not have a large impact on the community. Further, some communities may have such a high prevalence of multiple risk factors (e.g., orphaned children, famine, widespread maternal illiteracy) that the whole population should be targeted. Risk can be assessed at both the individual and the community or ecological level (table 1).

It is important to understand the prevalence of risk and protective factors in a population in order to plan effective resource utilization. Thus, the first step in planning any programme of services should be to conduct an assessment of the prevalence of protective and risk factors.

Programmatic actions

Programme characteristics and content.

The timing, duration, and breadth of an intervention modify its effect. Generally, the earlier and the longer the interventions, the larger the developmental benefits. This is true for both the initial and the later size of the effect as well as for its duration. If timing and duration are held constant, multifocal interventions (e.g., health, nutrition, and optimal child care) will yield larger and more sustained benefits than unifocal interventions (e.g., supplementary feeding). This statement is particularly valid when the interventions begin past the child’s postnatal growth spurt of the brain. Short-term and unifocal interventions that begin during the later pre-school period will do little to repair the damage from a history of malnutrition, poor health, and less than optimal caretaking. The merit of late interventions, even during the school years, is to prevent or remedy the adverse effects of concurrent health and nutrition problems that often interfere with learning and performance.

The more frequent the contact and the more intense the intervention, the more likely the children will benefit. Ideally, there should be an integration of maternal and child health services and early childhood development programmes.

Interventions may not benefit all domains of development. As programmes are implemented in communities, they should be monitored carefully. Before going to scale these programmes should be expanded in a staged manner, and it is critical to take into account culture, ecology, language, and demographic factors, among others, and to devise interventions that reflect these variables. Rather than simply adopting already existing approaches, there is an urgent need for evaluations of varied approaches to intervention and methods of delivering these services.

Recommendations of programme type (e.g., homebased, centre-based, or a combination) are dependent on the availability of several critical variables, such as responsible caregivers in the home, safety of the home, quality of caregiving in the centre, and stability, support, and training of caregivers in the centre. In general, centre-based programmes are not recommended for children from birth to three years of age except when the child is an orphan, the mother is in full-time employment, there is no suitable adult caregiver in the home, or there is extreme family disruption or child abuse and neglect.

Actions taken to facilitate child development in addition to nutrition and health interventions should contain at a minimum the following: age-appropriate responses of adults; stable relationships with adult caregivers; supporting the child’s development of language through labelling, encouraging the child’s vocalizations, expanding, explaining, and two-way conversations; providing an environment for the child to explore safely; providing interesting play materials and books that reflect the child’s everyday experiences; warm, affectionate behaviour and positive affect; sensitive and responsive behaviour to the child’s signals; play activities with peers and adults.

Many children with disabilities can respond productively to the same developmental interventions as children without disabilities and should be included in such intervention efforts. Children who have been injured as a result of war are also included among those with disabilities.


Actions should be taken to strengthen the parent’s or caregiver’s sense of effectiveness as a promoter of child development.

Interventions with parental and non-parental caregivers are needed to help them use developmental materials appropriately, to provide challenging activities at the appropriate level of difficulty in which the child can be successful, to become increasingly involved with their children, to respond verbally to the child’s vocalizations, to be responsive to the child’s emotional needs, and to avoid physical punishment as a standard child-rearing practice.

Parents or caregivers should be taught how to integrate child development activities into activities of daily living as much as possible. Involving other family members in these activities has the potential to increase their impact.


Another critical element of programme expansion is systematic and continuous training and supervision for both professional and paraprofessional staff. The success of the programme is highly dependent on the preparation and supervision of staff at all levels. Paraprofessionals need to be given field-based training to be closely affiliated with the communities in which they work, and should have credibility with the families in their communities. Health and medical professionals should receive inservice training to enable them to appreciate and provide necessary support for paraprofessionals and professionals working in child development activities.

Evaluation and assessment

Larger-scale studies of effectiveness with careful evaluation of process and impact need to be conducted.

All programme evaluations should begin by specifying programme objectives and documenting that programme activities are delivered.

Adaptation of existing direct (developmental scales and cognitive tests) and indirect (e. g., parent’s report) assessments of child development in children 18 months to 6 years of age (focusing on psychomotor, gross motor, reasoning, language, and adaptive tasks, including social and emotional behaviour) can be used to evaluate programme success when the programmes are intended to promote and enhance these outcomes. .

There is need for an investment of resources to develop new instruments and improve existing instruments intended to assess children’s cognitive and noncognitive development below the age of three years. This is particularly true for large-scale evaluations of programme interventions. Further research on the use of parental reports and other approaches, including brief observations, is needed.

Process measures of developmental interventions are critical for continuous improvement of programmes and for providing assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of programme practices (e.g., children’s and parent’s responsiveness to the intervention, children’s level of development and change over time, parental level of participation, and factors that inhibit participation). Such process measures can also serve the function of teachmg parents and other caregivers about their children and providing them with information about how to modify their behaviour with their children. Simple checklists, combined with training and supervision, can be used for this purpose

TABLE 1. Examples of community or ecological risk factors and individual risk factors

Community or ecological  Individual
  •     Poor sanitation
  •     Famine
  •     Endemic violence
  •     Endemic poverty
  •     Lack of accessible services: pre-schools, schools, libraries, health services
  •     AIDS epidemic
  •     Lack of commitment to child development
  •     Population traditionally discriminates against refugees
  •  Repeated infections
  • Undernutrition
  • Abuse and neglect
  • Very low family income
  • Low birthweight
  • Unstable caretaking
  • Low maternal education
  • Large family size
  • Short spacing between births
  • Orphans
  • Young sibling caregiver
  • Low levels of developmentally enhancing parenting practices
  • Developmental disabilities or severe physical injury

Considerations in defining a research agenda to address food and nutrition problems in developing countries

Discussion commentary for IUNS WEB page June 1998

Ricardo Uauy MD PhD
INTAU of Chile
Member of IUNS council

This discussion will address some basic principles in defining a research agenda that are specially relevant to national organizations that have an Operational/Applied Research focus.

The meaning of applied in the context of this discussion is the problem oriented approach which involves the integration of all disciplines required to answer a research question. It is as pointless to exclude the basic sciences from applied research as is to exclude the social sciences in research destined to improve the nutrition of populations groups around the world. Integrated approaches means more than just multidisciplinary research.

Nutritional and food problems in the community represent the interaction of multiple factors which may be grouped in the traditional nature vs nurture paradigm, presently stated as genetic and environmental factors. Most present problems in developing countries have an environmental component but as basic health and sanitation improve and dietary quality problems are resolved the genetic components underlying nutritional problems become more evident. In many urban centers in the developing world obesity is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem, it affects mainly the low socioeconomic groups, and in many cases it is coupled to stunted linear growth in early life. As an example the present epidemiologic characterisation of stunting and obesity should consider the genetic variables as well as the dietary, socioeconomic and cultural determinants.

Who benefits from the research: parternship not servitude
Institutions around the world, specially in developing countries are sometimes inclined to adopt their research agenda based on government or donor defined research priorities, although this may seem advantageous in the short run it is unwise unless these priorities fit with the institutional development process within the context of national and regional needs. The process should include active negotiation between donor interest, institutional needs and investigator creative thinking. The institution should always consider what are the benefits to the country, to the institution and to the local investigators derived from the research process as well as considering benefits from the expected results. It is not sufficient to receive generous funding, the costs involved for the institutions include more than direct supplies and space, they include human resource allocation, equipment utilization and maintenance and most of all time dedication of local staff, usually overstretched by existing work burden. In many cases research support will serve mainly the collaborating national institution from the donor country, in other cases, there will be little or nothing left behind locally after the project is completed. Projected publication of reports or scientific papers in the international literature are not sufficient to warrant embarking on a research project that will tie up local human resources in an inquiry of little or no local relevance. Only if the local institution and investigator benefits are clearly delineated the support of a donor should be accepted. If this is not clear it is best not accept funds, rather than be involved in a situation that benefits mostly the donor.

Who defines the research agenda: a negotiated process.
The process needs to include not only the people who will be conducting the research but also people who are familiar with present a projected nutrition and food problems in the country or region of interest. Firstly, there are some questions that have global interest either because of their relevance as international nutrition problems or because some aspects of the research provide a basic understanding of a problem that will have widespread application and thus are universally of interest. A research agenda should include setting priorities based on actual and projected country needs, thus planners and policy makers need to be involved in defining these priorities. In any case, research topics should leave room for individual investigators to orient the research approaches, there is much to be gained by allowing creativity to flourish. Creative thinkers in many cases will provide innovative solutions that would have not been surmised following traditional approaches. Freedom to question and criticize are of essence in a research setting. Sometimes it may appear difficult to balance relevance with individual .creativity but under no circumstances investigators should be forced to take a given topic, encouragement, facilitation of institutional resources should be the incentive to undertake research on priority problems.

The process should include active negotiation between donnor interest, institutional needs and investigators creative thinking. This process needs a careful assessment of costs and benefits to the country. In examining this issue the costs for the country in terms of using its limited human and institutional resources to serve a project need to be considered.

How much is too much: do not spread too thinly
Applied research institutions should define priorities and be selective in the number of research questions that they address at any given time. If the institution is spread too thinly little will be derived from the research effort. It is clear that service to the country’s operational research -needs should be satisfied but not beyond the institutional capacity to address them seriously. It is better to do well a few projects than to attempt to cover it all and fail in the process. Rigorousness in experimental design is crucial not only for laboratory studies but just as important in community based social research. Invested time and effort will be wasted unless this principles are upheld.

Invest in the future: training human resources takes time
It is important to plan ahead, when defining the projected research needs, since the human resources to address the projected needs will need to be trained, this takes time. Thus, there should always be a component of the research agenda that prepares the institution to address the coming problems. Basic science and disciplinary training is needed to prepare for the future, the ability to move from one set of question to the next requires formative components. This will allow individuals to retool and redefine their research questions. International networking, meetings and conferences provide unique opportunities for junior staff to interact with other centers that are further along the applied research path. External advisory bodies to review and propose recommendations are helpful in evaluating the relevance of research efforts in a given institution. This process should provide foresight to local policy makers and planners into what will be needed in the future. An institution should always invest some of its resources in the future, the balance between today’s relevance and future needs should be carefully sought. Institutions that are not capable of redefining their mission and adapting it to the changing socioeconomic and epidemiological profile of their country or region of influence will not maintain their leadership position. The demands of institutional leadership include anticipating future demands and being prepared to address them.

Food safety training for nutritionists

J.S. Crowther, L.J. Cox, R. Gross & F.A. Kaferstein

A course on safety for nutritionists has been developed in Indonesia through collaboration between government, industry, academia and international agencies. By teaching the basic principles of the subject it equips the participants to recommend foods that are safe as well as nutritious.

More than three million children die annually from diarrhoeal diseases, while hundreds of millions suffer from frequent episodes of diarrhoea and its debilitating consequences1. The incidence of these diseases is increasing in the industrialized countries, despite the advances made in water quality and sanitation. The kinds of gastroenteritis occurring in these countries are predominantly campylobacteriosis and salmonellosis, caused respectively by Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella species. The epidemiology of diarrhoeal diseases in developed countries is linked to contaminated food2, and it is likely that this is also a factor in developing countries. Contaminated weaning foods can be a source of Escherichia coli3. Changing patterns of foodborne diseases have linked to altered food consumption practices (4). Additional problems are presented by food adulteration and chemicals in the environment, particularly in developing countries.

A knowledge of food safety provides a basis for the development of intervention strategies at all staged between production and consumption, with the aim of preventing foodborne diseases. These strategies include inspection by government agencies and educational campaigns directed at food handlers, process operators and people preparing food. The points of intervention vary in accordance with the nature of the food chain in different countries. In Indonesia, for instance, a significant proportion of the food consumed is purchased from street vendors.

Nutritionists need information about local conditions that influence food safety, and have to be able to identify points where contamination can occur or where the survival and growth of microorganisms are favored. In developed countries their skills are applied through adoption of the hazard analysis and critical control point system5.

Guidelines on food safety have been developed for governments acting in partnership with nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, local communities and international community6. In 1991 the Industry Council for Development of the Food and Allied Industries (ICD) was approached by WHO and the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) for assistance with integrating food safety into the Master of Science degree programme in nutrition of the South East Asia Regional Centre for Community Nutrition, located in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Centre, financed by the Indonesian Government, receives technical support form GTZ and the Canadian International Development Agency. The progamme now includes a short course on food safety which is intended to enable nutritionists to raise general awareness of this subject.

Objectives, Design and Structure

On completing the course, participants are expected to:

  • Understand what safe foods are and how they can be produced;
  • Recognize unsafe foods and preparation practices;
  • Understand the affect of infection on nutrition;
  • Be capable of intervening to prevent foodborne diseases;
  • Know how to teach the principles of food safety.

The course, comprising eight modules (see table), was designed for nutritionists in Indonesia but it can readily be adapted for public health inspectors and other professionals, and for other countries. It gives special attention to the practical knowledge and skills needed for recognizing unsafe food and food preparation practices and for developing intervention strategies.

The objectives of the course are achieved by means of lectures, tutorials, syndicate groups, the use of videos, a field exercise among street vendors, and a visit to a food factory or large catering operation. Group work, including field studies and classroom exercises, encourages the students and helps them to acquire skills. The students are asked to read a recent paper or book each evening and to comment on it the next morning.

The presenters are drawn from ICD member companies, the University of Indonesia, and government departments. Speakers have been invited form Bogor University, the Indonesian Consumers’ Organization and WHO.

The course, intended primarily for nutritionists working for the MSc degree, accommodates 20-25 participants and allows affective interaction between students and teachers. Other professionals in the field, for instance government officials and managers from food companies, have been invited to attend as observers. This helps to disseminate the message about the preventive approach to food safety among various sectors and thus promotes intersectoral collaboration. Between 1993 and 1997, 105 people attended the course, of whom 58 were MSc students in the nutrition programme and 47 were short-course participants. The countries represented were Ghana, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, the United Republic of Tanzania and Viet Nam.

Evaluation and Peer Review
Feedback was obtained from students, observers, course facilitators and tutors, the Director and Staff of the Department of Medicine at the University of Indonesia, and the GTZ team leader. Each module was scored on a scale of 1 to 5 for:

  • Presentation of subject matter;
  • The extent to which teaching activities increased participants’ knowledge and skills;
  • Relevance, as indicated by the degree to which teaching activities helped to develop problem-solving capacities;
  • The degree of difficulty encountered in following the subject matter;
  • The time allotted for study of specific subjects.

Students, observers and presenters were also asked to suggest ways of improving the course. Good scores were obtained for presentation, knowledge increase, relevance to nutritionists and time allotment, and the course was considered to be pitched at the right level of difficulty. Some of the comments offered are indicated below.

  • The course represented a breakthrough in graduate training because, for the first time in Indonesia, food safety was treated as an important subject for nutritionists.
  • The involvement of the food industry was significant, helping the students to appreciate that scientific knowledge alone was not enough and that it had to be combined with technical knowledge and skills.
  • The interactive approach to teaching, the fieldwork and the outside visits were highly beneficial.

Member firms of ICD, although commercial competitors, shared information on food safety and helped to build the course in an impressive manner.

After the course had been tested three times and improved in the light of experience, a review of the material was conducted by experts in food safety or nutrition on a worldwide basis. Their comments were generally very positive and their suggestions for further improvement were adopted for the fourth course in 1996. This led to official WHO approval of the material. The teaching package includes overhead transparencies and textbooks, which are available on diskette and can be modified and updated to requirements in different regions.

When the course had been running successfully for five years in Indonesia a two-day module was added for training trainers to set it up in other countries, especially in Thailand and Viet Nam. A newsletter entitled Food Safety Matters has been launched in order to :

  • Keep food safety messages before people who have completed the course;
  • Help maintain a high level of awareness of food safety issues among nutritionists and other professionals in South East Asia;
  • Encourage nutritionists to share information on food safety;
  • Remind them that almost all foodborne diseases are preventable;
  • Remind them of the expertise that can be called upon.

Table 1: Food Safety Course for Nutritionists

Module Topic
Basic food microbiology  Nature of microorganisms, including harmful ones. Beneficial microorganisms and how they grow. Microbiology, including pathogens likely to be present in raw food materials.
Foodborne pathogens  Infectious pathogens, where they came from, and the diseases they cause. Toxigenic pathogens, the nature of the toxins they produce, and the symptoms of the illness caused.
Significance of foodborne disease  Impact of diarrhoea on nutritional status, especially in young children. Clinical, social and economic impact of foodborne disease.
 Chemical contaminants  Synthetic chemical contaminants such as pesticides and antibiotics, and naturally occurring toxicants such as mycotoxins.
 Factors affecting survival and growth of microorganisms  Main factors in traditional food preservation aimed at preventing survival and growth of undesirable microorganisms Basis principles of thermal processing and irradiation.
 Epidemiology of foodborne disease Distribution and occurrence of foodborne diseases and factors that promote their spread.
 Potential local problems of significance for foodborne disease  Local food preparation practices, traditions, and beliefs, including safety of street foods.
Epidemiological considerations in relation to street food in Indonesia.


Gratitude is expressed to: the experts who kindly reviewed the present material; Mars Confectionery, Nestle and Unilever for the support given through ICD; and Dr. C. Geisler of WHO’s Jakarta Office for his support and encouragement.


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