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Infoods activities

Report of the first Asiafoods meeting, Bangkok, September 1984


Report of the first Asiafoods meeting, Bangkok, September 1984

Aree Valyasevi, Kraisid Tontisirin, and William Rand

An international meeting in early 1983, called to examine the problems of food-composition data, founded the International Network of Food Data Systems, INFOODS (described in the Food and Nutrition Bulletin, vol. 5, no. 2 [July 1983]). A major component of INFOODS is the establishment of regional organizations devoted to the improvement of the quality and availability of food-composition data. At a preliminary meeting held during the Fourth Asian Congress of Nutrition in Bangkok in November 1983, great interest was expressed in the formation of an Asian regional organization, ASIAFOODS, and Dr. Aree Valyasevi was asked to organize the first ASIAFOODS meeting for the following year.

Twenty-two representatives from 12 countries and 17 observers and resource persons met in Bangkok 17-21 September 1984 to consider the organization of ASIAFOODS. The meeting was organized by Dr. Valyasevi and his colleagues with the assistance of the INFOODS secretariat, and with major financial support from Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and additional support from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The meeting had the following objectives:
- to review the current status of food-composition data among Asian countries;
- to discuss specific needs within the region relating to food-composition data generation, data compilation, and data usage; and
- to make recommendations for improving the quality and availability of food-composition data within the Asian region, the types and amount of assistance that would be required, and the national and regional structures that would be necessary and useful.

The format of the meeting involved the presentation of background papers (on INFOODS and on the problems of collecting and exchanging good food-composition data) and presentations on the status of food-composition data by the representatives of the countries present. The group met both in plenary session, for presentations and general discussions, and in small working groups for special discussions and report generation.

1. Recommended Goal of ASIAFOODS

The meeting agreed that the ultimate goal of the ASIAFOODS project is that each country should have national food-composition tables that are complete, accurate, and up-to-date. Further, these tables should be easily accessible in a convenient form to anyone with a need for them.

2. Areas of Work

In order to attain this goal, it is planned to work in the following areas:

2.1. Individual governments and professional societies must be made aware of the importance of food composition data.
2.2. Strong communication links, both within individual countries and between countries, must established and maintained, with meetings, workshops, etc. as an integral component. As an initial activity, a directory of existing personnel engaged in specialized areas of food-composition data should be compiled and distributed.
2.3. Those food items and food components for which it is most important to have good data need to be identified within each country and for the region as a whole. Additionally, the resources necessary for these analyses need to be specified.
2.4. Food analysis activity needs to be improved and expanded. This includes development of guidelines for sampling and analytic methodology, acquisition of new equipment, training of personnel, and establishment of quality control where necessary.
2.5. Standardized procedures for handling data, from acquisition to storage, need to be developed and implemented. Ideally and in the long term, this should involve putting the data into a computer system (either locally or regionally) that has broad capabilities for manipulation and display and is linked to other data sets.
2.6. Funding needs to be obtained for the projects involved-for capital expenses, operating expenses, fellowships for training, meetings, workshops, consultants, etc.

3. Plans for National Activities

A national working group on food composition will be organized within each country to identify needs and to plan and co-ordinate food-composition work within the country.
3.1. This group will assess the status of food composition data within the country and identify problems, needs, and resources.
3.2. It will draw up a plan of action for improving the generation, collection, and utilization of food-composition data, with details of other resources needed.
3.3. It will co-ordinate its activities with those of the parallel groups in other countries, assisting in the organization of ASIAFOODS and working actively within it on common problems, such as the development of standards, conduct of workshops, obtaining funds, etc. As part of this activity, each national working group should assist in the development of the regional plan and the implementation of that plan.

4. Plans for Regional Activities

ASIAFOODS will be organized as a co-operative venture to facilitate communication among those involved with food composition in the area, and in general to promote work on food-composition data throughout the region. Workers in the field should be encouraged and assisted in the publication of their results in professional journals. Assurance has been received from the ASEAN Food Journal that it would be very interested in publishing papers about food-composition data from the ASIAFOODS countries. In addition, the following activities are essential.
4.1. ASIAFOODS will recommend the establishment of national working groups on food composition to the governments and/or professional societies of various countries. Additionally, the establishment of specialist groups on food composition should be recommended to the professional societies.
4.2. A comprehensive and detailed regional plan for improving the generation, collection, and utilization of food-composition data throughout the region will be developed with the assistance of all countries involved.
4.3. Ad hoc committees and workshops for common regional problems and other matters of mutual interest will be organized.
4.4. The resources (funds, fellowships, etc.) necessary for
the activities involved in improving and extending food composition data within the region will be obtained and dispersed, co-ordinating activities with INFOODS where mutually beneficial.
4.5. The possibility of setting up one or more regional computer facilities as a regional repository of food data will be investigated. This repository would hold data of interested laboratories doing food analysis within the region as well as national food tables and be available to anyone needing the data, in the same manner that published food-composition material is currently available.

5. Recommended Structure for ASIAFOODS

5.1. Membership
Full membership of ASIAFOODS will consist of the countries of South Asia, South-East Asia, and East Asia, with close relationship being maintained with Australia.
5.2. Structure
An ASIAFOODS committee, consisting of a single representative of each country, will form the governing body of ASIAFOODS and will meet, at least initially, once a year to discuss the progress and plans of the organization. An interim ASIAFOODS committee would consist of one individual per country of those who attended the current meeting. These individuals identified contact persons within their countries who would be requested to begin work on establishment of their national working group on food composition.

An interim Executive Committee was appointed at the meeting, consisting of Dr. Aree Valyasevi of Thailand as Chairman and the representatives of Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Nepal, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka as members- these six members explicitly including two countries from each of the sub-regions. The Executive Committee will act as a steering committee for ASIAFOODS, serve as the contact point for INFOODS, and produce and plan a programme of work and submit it to the ASIAFOODS committee for review and approval. It will organize, direct, and carry on the work of ASIAFOODS between meetings of the full committee, keeping the full membership informed on an ongoing baisis. The interim Executive Committee members will plan the first full meeting of ASIAFOODS and serve until then.

An ASIAFOODS secretariat will be organized and appointed by the Chairman of the Executive Committee, with Executive Committee approval. Thailand is recommended as the first location of the secretariat. The size and exact composition of the secretariat will be determined by

the Chairman of the Executive Committee as tasks are assigned to it. The secretariat will act as the focal point for ASIAFOODS communication and as a distribution point for documentation and other material of importance to the region. Other tasks will be determined on an ongoing basis.

6. The Relationship between ASIAFOODS and INFOODS

ASIAFOODS will establish and maintain a link to INFOODS and work with INFOODS to develop and implement guidelines for activities that are global concerns, such as nomenclature, data quality, and data handling and interchange. INFOODS will try to understand the problems, needs, and resources of the region so that it can encourage and facilitate co-operation. It needs a contact person in the region who can identify individuals and groups to participate in the development of its international guidelines and standards. Liaison with INFOODS will be through the ASIAFOODS Executive Committee.

INFOODS will assist ASIAFOODS in seeking funding for regional projects as they develop and for fellowships and will provide consultations on the various aspects of food-composition data. While INFOODS is not a funding source, it will assist ASIAFOODS in defining projects, identifying potential sources of funding, and seeking funding. Further, INFOODS will be able to provide limited technical assistance to regional efforts, while the INFOODS network will provide ASIAFOODS with access to data and food composition tables existing and being collected in other regions.

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