Improving the health of a nation

Goodman Fielder, one of the major flour millers in Papua New Guinea (PNG), is working with nutrition and food science expert Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot from the School of Chemical Engineering to ensure public nutrition is improved through micronutrient-fortified wheat flour.

First published in May 2016. Updated in May 2020

PNG school children

 

Partnership in summary

 

Partner: Goodman Fielder Ltd

Type of partnership: Contract research 

Funding: $300K in cash and in-kind support

Collaborating since: 2015

Purpose: To demonstrate how and why the mandatory fortification of wheat flour is of critical importance to the future wellbeing of Papua New Guinea (PNG) society.

Outcomes:  To increase the nutritional value of wheat flour and other products that the population consumes to combat micronutrient malnutrition.

 

The team that visited PNG to meet with the Department of Health to discuss the intervention study: Scott Markham (PhD student, School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW Sydney) Coral Colyer (Goodman Fielder Ltd), Karen Codling, (Food Fortification Initiative (FFI)), Jayashree Arcot (School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW Sydney), Karen Tsang (FFI) and Victor Temple, Micronutrient Laboratory, University of PNG, Port Moresby) The last national nutrition survey (conducted in PNG in 2005) identified an alarming 44% of children between six months and five years suffering from chronic energy deficiency and stunting; 26% suffering a vitamin A deficiency; and 48% suffering anaemia due to iron deficiency.


CoralColyer, a UNSW alumna who worked for Goodman Fielder R&D as their Regulatory and Product Guidance Senior Manager, approached A/Prof Arcot in 2015 about a joint research project. Colyer wanted to tackle micronutrient malnutrition in PNG by fortifying wheat flour with some of the essential nutrients missing from the daily diet of the population.

When considering who to partner with in our research in PNG, my natural choice was to first look to my alma mater for support. Picking up the conversation with Jayashree Arcot, it was immediately evident that she too shared our passion and hence our partnership progressed.

Carol Colyer, Regulatory and Product Guidance Senior Manager, Goodman Fielder Ltd.

“According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, adding nutrients to a food (fortification), for the purpose of preventing or correcting a demonstrated deficiency of one or more nutrients in the population, is one of the best-recognised interventions for the prevention and control of micronutrient malnutrition,” says A/Prof Arcot. “It can offer enhanced protection from a range of disabilities and diseases, and help children grow and learn. Systematic scientific studies are required to make sure the added vitamins remain stable in a tropical environment and are efficiently absorbed by the target population under different nutritional status conditions.”


The project commenced in 2016, with the assistance of the Research and Development Manager Dr. Mary Sharma, Head of R&D Australia Goodman Fielder Limited Mr. Scott Randall, National Operations & Supply Chain Manager Goodman Fielder Asia Pacific, PNG. Wheat flour was fortified based on WHO recommendations with eight nutrients (iron, zinc, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamin B12 and folic acid) with the manufacture of an acceptable wheat-based product (biscuit). This product was manufactured by Goodman Fielder, New Zealand and shipped to Lae, Papua New Guinea where it was used for the nutrition intervention study in school children.


“Our collaboration with Goodman Fielder contributed significantly to the academic body of knowledge in regard to nutritional intervention studies in the Pacific and the assessment of key nutritional biomarkers,” A/Prof Arcot continues. The intervention study in school children was completed in 2018 by Mr. Scott Markham, a PhD student and the analysis of biomarkers and data is currently being interpreted and written up as his thesis. The results will soon be published in peer reviewed journals but more importantly the Department of Health in Papua New Guinea will be provided with data on the micronutrient status of school age children (6-12 years) and the evidence on the efficacy of fortification to assist in developing a public health policy around mandatory fortification of wheat flour in PNG.

About Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot

Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot is an expert in the area of food and nutritional science and Director of the ARC Training Centre for Advanced Technologies in Food Manufacture. Her research in human nutrition is based on a food-based approach to tackling micronutrient malnutrition. She is active in industry and academia, sitting on panels and speaking at conferences, and has received considerable funding for her research. She has published widely and in 2013 was awarded the Australia-India Senior Visiting Fellowship by the Australian Academy of Science.

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