| Food Composition Data: A User's Perspective (1987) |
|International food composition data|
|The status of food composition data in Asia|
The perceived needs that the current food composition tables do not meet concern many of the processed foods that have only recently become widely available in ASIAFOODS countries. Virtually all of the tables available list nutrients for uncooked food items, which means that since many nutrient values change with cooking these listings do not accurately reflect what is actually consumed. The vast majority of the population of many of these countries reside in rural areas rather than the urban centres. Since these people are usually poor, they are often compelled, at least on a seasonal basis, to consume what could be characterized as "wild" foods. There is essentially no data on these non-domesticated foods, and any efforts at nutrition intervention or education are handicapped without such knowledge.
One suggestion to come out of the most recent ASIAFOODS executive committee meeting was that there should be a differentiation, when analysing and presenting food composition data, between chemical content and physiologically or biologically active content, e.g. retinol and carotenoids. It has also been suggested that data on selected nutrients be related to the prevalent health problems in each country; for instance, the role that certain nutrients play in the prevalence of cancer, as well as degenerative diseases, is not clear. More attention should be paid to the functional aspects of the nutrients rather than their chemical composition.
Participants at both ASIAFOODS meetings expressed concern that there was a minimal awareness of needs relating to food composition data among planners and administrators in influential positions. These decision-makers need to be motivated and encouraged to support more vigorously those activities proposed by ASIAFOODS.
It was universally recognized that there is currently a shortage of qualified personnel to accomplish the goals of ASIAFOODS.
The recently launched ASEAN Food Habits Project will have a food composition component which will interact very closely with the food-composition data-generation activities of ASIAFOODS.