New Food Science programme seen as vital for the region’s food security
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Dr Tony Mutukumira (top row – 2nd from left) with USP Food Science Committee members and industry stakeholders at the Food Science Consultation Workshop.
There are plans by the University of the South Pacific in developing an internationally accredited Food Science programme to be offered at the undergraduate-level.
The programme will be offered by the University’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences based in the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE).
Recent consultations with relevant stakeholders have highlighted the genuine need for such a programme to ensure diversity of food production, improvement to the quality and safety of local foods and to add value to local food products.
On the Faculty’s invitation, Dr Tony Mutukumira who teaches Food Technology and Food Safety and Quality at Massey University was at USP from 6 - 8 June to assist the Food Science Committee led by USP academic, Dr Jimaima Lako in engaging stakeholders to drive the new programme.
During the consultations, the Food Industry also gave its strong support to partner with FSTE in providing hands-on training to students through industrial attachment.
Dr Lako believes this will help produce graduates who are well prepared to enter the industry workforce and who can immediately make positive contributions.
During his visit to USP, Dr Mutukumira who is a professional member of international bodies including the New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology (NZIFST) and the International Union of Food Science and Technology Committee on Distance Education, presented a public lecture in which he emphasised the role of food science and technology in national development.
“Over the years, food science and technology has demonstrated its potential to contribute towards food security and national development and improve the welfare of the people,” he added.
Dr Mutukumira explained that food science and technology have been used by many countries to transform agro-processing industries and to make a real contribution to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“Education in food science and technology provides substantial knowledge and skills to enhance better utilisation of food sources, application of technology, productivity, nutritional practices, maternal care, as well as economic access to food and create employment opportunities,” he stated.
The outcome of the industry stakeholders’ consultation on 7 June which involved representatives from the Flour Mills of Fiji, Fiji Dairy Ltd., Tosa Bussan (Fiji) Ltd., Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd., Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Fisheries, Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the World Health Organisation, ended on a positive contribution towards the development of the Food Science programme to address industry needs.
With a growing need for nutritionally adequate and safe food in the Pacific and around the world, Dr Lako said that the development of an internationally accredited Food Science degree is seen as an important and timely investment.
“The programme will provide the opportunity to develop and train our local and regional students in this important area,” she mentioned.
FSTE is keen to roll-out the new Food Science programme in the next 2 years which will be earmarked for accreditation by the Institute of Food Technologists while having a comparative edge for seafood and tropical foods.