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.
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.
“Micronutrient malnutrition is one of the most debilitating non-communicable conditions in any population,” says A/Prof Arcot, who has extensive experience in fortifying foods with micronutrients for human consumption. “It contributes to a vicious cycle of poor health and depressed productivity as seen in PNG.”
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.
Carol Colyer, a UNSW alumna who works 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 is looking to fortify selected wheat based products with eight nutrients (iron, zinc, vitamin A, lysine, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid) and study the interactions between the added nutrients, adjusting levels of addition based on these studies. They will then launch a nutrition intervention study in school children in PNG complemented by nutrition education programs for school children and their families.
“Our collaboration with Goodman Fielder will contribute significantly to the academic body of knowledge in regard to nutritional intervention studies and the assessment of key nutritional biomarkers,” A/Prof Arcot continues. “But essentially, we want to see on-the-ground results. We want to improve the health of the local population, with a particular focus on mothers, infants and children.”
About Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot
Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot is an expert in the area of food and nutritional science and Co-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.
9th OCEANIAFOODS Conference
Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot will be leading the upcoming 9th OCEANIAFOODS Conference on Data Quality and Evaluation in Nutrition.
The conference will be held at UNSW Australia in Sydney, 9 July, 2016 in association with the second Australia/OCEANIAFOODS Training Course on “Food Composition: Data Quality and Evaluation”.
At this conference discussions will be held on issues such as improving collaboration within the region and technical seminars on the importance of data quality and evaluation in nutritional epidemiology, dietary surveys and critical nutrient data issues in Oceania related to fortification of foods.
Find out more about the 9th OCEANIAFOODS conference.