The 11th OCEANIAFOODS conference, currently underway at the Pearl Resort in Pacific Harbour, Fiji, brought together stakeholders locally and internationally to discuss the importance of food nutrition, specifically focusing on ‘Biodiversity and Food Composition in Oceania.’
Hosted by the Institute of Applied Science (IAS) of the School of Agriculture, Geography, Environment, Ocean, and Natural Sciences (SAGEONS) from The University of the South Pacific (USP), together with the Fiji National University, the three-day workshop is aimed at updating and improving the Pacific Foods Composition Table.
The Pacific Foods Composition Table is a database that provides the nutritional content of foods in our region.
Established in 1987, OCEANIAFOODS is the Pacific regional operation of INFOODS (the International Network of Food Data Systems), which was established in 1984 under the auspices of the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
INFOODS is a worldwide network of food composition experts aiming to improve food composition data quality, availability, reliability, and use. Countries under its umbrella are Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Communities (SPC).
The conference also hosts food composition experts and students from USP and across Oceania to present their research findings.
Opening the conference today, Fiji’s Minister for Agriculture, Honourable Vatimi Rayalu, said, “I strongly believe that we must seize this opportunity better to understand the biodiversity of our nutritionally rich foods and further discuss opportunities for successful food production.”
“I also want to highlight that the agriculture sector in Fiji played a critical role during the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring access to nutritionally rich foods and providing local substitutes for imported foods.
Rayalu added that food composition data is needed to properly underpin not just public health and individual health care but many areas of public policy, including the environment, sustainability, food security and agriculture.
Addressing the delegates, SAGEONS Head of School, Professor Surendra Prasad, highlighted the importance of the OCEANIAFOODS Conference in the Pacific and globally.
“It is beneficial in the well-being and health of people in Oceania as it identifies the similar types of foods that have been analysed by our scientists in relation to food science. These are the people who know about the nutrient value.”
“One of the sessions devoted to this conference is focused on the Pacific Food Composition Table. The Pacific Food Composition Table is important in all aspects as various foods are being studied, and their nutrient value is being reported.”
Professor Kumar added that for SAGEONS, “Food nutrition is one of our priority and thematic research areas; we also focus on natural.”
Dr Isoa Korovulavula, Chair of the Conference Local Organising Committee and Acting Director, IAS, stated that the theme of the Conference, ‘Biodiversity and Food Composition in Oceania,’ is appropriate as biodiversity plays an important role in the availability of healthy and nutritious foods.
At the end of the 11th OCEANIAFOODS Conference, delegates hope to see some improvement in the Pacific Foods Composition Table.
Also present at the conference today are Professor Barbara Burlingame from Massey University and Chair of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS) Taskforce on Sustainable Diets, Dr Roy Steiner, Senior Vice President (Food Initiative) The Rockefeller Foundation, USA, Robert Oliver, Celebrity Chef and Executive Director, Pacific Islands Food Revolution, New Zealand, amongst other experts.
The conference will conclude on Saturday (August 12, 2023).