Malawi launches food composition database

Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dan Namarika says the Malawi Food Composition Database launched in Lilongwe on Monday will be a good guide to various sectors involved in food nutrition.

The database, developed by Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) in collaboration with the South African Food Data System (Safoods), is a list of Malawian foods and their nutritional composition.

Namarika said the database will guide the academia, processors and consumers to know the nutritional value of the food they are either processing or consuming which will improve people’s health.

He said: “What it means is that the academia will know what is contained in particular foodstuffs, including the quantities, so as to know what to put in the nutrition syllabus. At the same time, processors will know the nutritional content of the product they are producing, thereby giving the consumer the right guide.”

The activity is being implemented by Luanar with clinical support from University of Malawi’s College of Medicine while food composition database compilation is being supported by Safoods of the South African Medical Research Council.

Luanar project principal investigator Agnes Mangwela said the database was developed after extensive research and data gathering following a methodology endorsed by international bodies such as Infoods and Food and Agriculture Organisation.

She said: “What we did was to engage various researchers who zeroed-in on particular food items such as maize, groundnuts, soybean and animal products. In total, we have begun with 360 different food types.

“These researchers worked around the food types to come up with the nutritional content and their quantities. We will keep updating the database.”

Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Nutrition, an initiative of the USAid Bureau of Food Security, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufs University, are engaged in three focal activities in Malawi aimed at building pre-service nutrition education and training capacity.

According to Vandana Stapleton, a Family Health Team Leader from USAid, the National Food Composition Database for Malawi is one of the three focal activities.

Author:  Steven Pembamoyo

Original article published on The Nation.