MULTAN: Food scarcity is due to the mismanagement of resources not due to the shortage of food production. This was stated by speakers addressing the participants of the International Conference on “food and nutritional security in a changing climate”.
The two-day 4th international conference was organised at Jinnah Auditorium of Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan. A large number of national and international food scientists from the USA, Canada and Malaysia presented their research papers at the conference.
Institute of Food Science and Nutrition Director and the chief organiser of International Conferences Dr Saeed Akhtar while addressing the participants of the conference said: “I strongly believe that these conferences, in addition to several other significant professional events and activities undertaken by the institute, have substantially contributed to sensitising stakeholders on the magnitude of the damage caused by an unsafe and non-nutritious supply of food to the population of South Punjab.”
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He said that the prevailing state of food safety and nutrition warrants extensive efforts at all levels to improve the health and livelihood of population groups in South Punjab through better nutrition and a supply of safe food. “These objectives can only be achieved through extensive research in the domains of food sciences and nutrition,” he added.
An increase in the burden of diseases associated with food safety and nutritional deficiencies in South Punjab further calls for the establishment of an exclusive centre for food safety and applied nutrition to cater the needs of this region, he maintained.
The speakers at the international conference also gave recommendations on the provision of an appropriate amount of food and nutrition for the next 30 years amid a changing climate and increased prices of food items.
The speakers recommended that food safety must be ensured at all levels and legislators in all provinces must design and formulate quality standards that will improve the health of all individuals.
Secondly, post-harvest losses, that are between 15 to 40% , must be minimised and the government could take the initiative to promote the cottage industry. Food technologists should be provided an interest-free loan for establishing processing units near production areas.
Thirdly, the government can initiate pilot projects for efficiently utilising byproducts and food industrial waste.
Fourthly, attempts should be made to remove the middlemen from the food chain that could meet the requirements for safe and healthy foods. Fifth, nutrition education and awareness should be an integral part of the curriculum at primary and secondary level schools, thus enabling communities to apply practical knowledge in their daily lives.
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Sixth, comprehensive training of teaching staff affiliated with primary to tertiary education should be ensured. Staff should be trained on food safety, hygiene and food quality.
Seventh, kitchen gardening could be the ideal opportunity to enhance fresh vegetable consumption. Eighth, multi-sectoral nutrition strategies should be adopted by the government and at a grass roots level and should be treated like a polio campaign. Multi-sectoral nutrition centres should be strengthened permanently and expanded geographically.
Ninth, sewerage systems should be adopted at rural and urban areas to improve the safety and quality of ground drinking water. Tenth, a comprehensive food and nutritional survey should be conducted over the country and deprived areas with an emphatic approach to address malnutrition related issues and problems.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2019.