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Southeast Asia is a physically and culturally diverse region. More than 600 people live there; some in the most globalized urban centers in the world and others in rural areas where development and integration into larger economies has been slow. There are 11 nation states in Southeast Asia, each with its own health priorities and varying levels of technical and scientific capacity.

It is in this context ILSI Southeast Asia Region operates. Over the decades, the branch – which also covers Australia and New Zealand – has worked to improve nutrition and food safety on a regional level while food systems have changed, especially as they have gone from local to global. To do so, the branch has worked to understand and compensate for differences among diverse populations and economic entities.

Food composition data must be accurate and current to have clear idea of what people are eating and of the nutritional value of their foods. From this baseline, better nutritional guidelines and food safety policies can be recommended. ILSI Southeast Asia Region believes having a baseline understanding of food consumption and nutrient intake across jurisdictions will lead to better health for people in the region regardless of where they live.

In April 2016, ILSI SEA Region organized the symposium “Dietary Intakes: Assessing What We Eat and Evaluating Methodologies.” The symposium was designed to share local experiences and international best practices in dietary assessment methodologies with the goal to identify barriers and opportunities for expanding and improving food composition databases in Southeast Asia.

Experts from Australia, Singapore, and the United States presented on methods used in their countries. Researchers and government officials from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and The Philippines presented data from recent nutrition surveys and what they tell us about diet’s role in various health outcomes in those countries. In addition to providing local diet snapshots, the discussions highlighted gaps in and among methods. As stated, knowing these differences and how they might be bridged will be critical in order to foster regional harmonization of nutrition recommendations and food safety practices.

You can find a detailed summaries of each presenter’s talk in the October issue of Southeast Asia Region’s ScienceInSight newsletter: ScienceInSight

Contact the branch for more information on its nutrition and food safety harmonization activities at: ilsisea@singnet.com.sg

ILSI News | November 2016
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