The Institute of Applied Sciences hosted a 3 day regional workshop on the review of the Pacific Islands Food Composition Tables (PIFCT) at the USP Lower Campus, Suva on 20 – 22 May. Funded by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the workshop focused on the feasibility of revising the 2nd edition of the Pacific Islands Food Composition Tables that was published in 2004 to produce and publish an updated 3rd edition. The second edition has been an important resource of nutritional information of regularly consumed foods in the South Pacific.
The workshop was facilitated by FAO Consultant (Ms Ann Hayman) and IAS Laboratory Manager (Dr Vincent Lal). The participants comprised of country representatives from the Ministries of Health, Food and Agriculture in Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji and the Republic of Marshall Islands who provided valuable input on lessons learnt, benefits from and applications of the PIFCT in their own countries. Representatives from the World Health Organisation, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, FAO, USP, IAS, New Zealand Plant and Food Research and Nutrition Consultants were also present and provided further insights on food composition information and uses.
Ms Ateca Kama who is the Manager National Food and Nutrition Centre for Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services, stated that the PIFCT is a useful tool for use in drafting policies and as a guideline in the areas focusing on public health and nutrition intervention programmes. Ms Analosa Manuele-Magele, Senior Nutritionist at the Samoa’s Ministry of Health stated that “The PIFCT is being used in Samoa by nutritionists and dieticians particularly in the preparation of special diets for hospital patients, the production of health awareness programme materials and for research purpose”. She also added that in the past 15 years there has been a change in eating habits and the number of fast food outlets have increased in Samoa.
Ms Philmar Mendoza, the Director of Health Promotion and Diseases Prevention Programme in the Republic of the Marshall Islands highlighted that revising the PIFCT is timely as there has been a reduction in the consumption of traditional local foods and an increase in the consumption of imported convenience foods in the Marshall Islands.
During the workshop, participants deliberated on the new food that could be included in the updated PIFCT, including traditional foods from local agricultural biodiversity farms, imported food and takeaway fast food. They also discussed whether the twenty-two nutrient components which include many vitamins and minerals, protein, fat, carbohydrate and energy in each of the approximately nine hundred foods in the current PIFCT are sufficient or whether new nutrients should be added. Participants considered the benefits of including the food composition information in a publicly available e-database in addition to hard copy format.
The next phase of the project would then be to determine the nutritional components of the lists of new foods before their inclusion in the 3rd edition of the PIFCT.
Ms Ann Hayman commended the participants for their feedback and their interest in ensuring that the revised PIFCT is reflective of the new food currently consumed in the Pacific.
Dr Isoa Korovulavula, the IAS Acting Director thanked the FAO for supporting the workshop and added that IAS is glad to be involved in this project.