Wholesome food education will uproot misconceptions - GulfToday

Wholesome food education will uproot misconceptions


(From left to right): Dr. Andrea Poli, Dr. Marco Silano, Dr. Yousef Alsaadi, and Lama Al Naeli at the ‘Positive Nutrition Education: The Importance of Informative Labelling’ forum in Sofitel Downtown Dubai.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Two visiting Italian medical specialists amplified the significance of food education through a forum co-organized by the Embassy of Italy and the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA).

The recent forum was the “Positive Nutrition Education: The Importance of Informative Labelling.”

It presented the UAE’s “Traffic Light (Nutrition) Front-of-Package (FOP)” to be compulsory on January 2022 towards a “Four Zero Objective for 2071: Zero Accidents, Zero Carbon Dioxide, Zero Obesity, Zero Plastic” alongside Italy’s “Battery System (Nutrition) FOP.” It was to increase awareness on the FOP significance, juxtaposed with mitigating the never-ending rise of diseases.

Italian Ambassador to the UAE Nicola Lener said the project is part of Rome’s cultural diplomacy.

“We wanted to promote the value of food culture, and the proper information on food, diet, and nutrition. ESMA (is our partner) because we believe that the FOP guide will help us choose (our food purchases) wisely. It is empowering consumers,” Lener told Gulf Today.

Interviewed regarding food education, raised during the open forum, were Italian National Institute of Health (Rome)-Department of Food and Safety, Nutrition and Veterinary Public Health-Human Nutrition and Health Unit head Dr Marco Silano, and Nutrition Foundation of Italy president Dr Andrea Poli.

Silano said: “The concept of ‘Food Education’ comprises any activity that empowers and informs the consumer about the effects of dietary pattern on health and how to compose a healthy dietary pattern. It is usually carried out through TV programmes, social media campaigns, and booklets.”

Poli pointed out that “medical doctors and health professionals” must take an active role in the “Food Education Process.”

“They are the ones going to help the population to better understand and to implement in their daily life, the messages of the campaigns aimed at improving their knowledge of the health effects of the diet,” he continued.

Poli, at the open forum, commented: “Parents must pay attention (to their children’s) food needs. We need to be sure of what we (serve them). We have to be properly informed (FOP).”

It was an answer to Gulf Today’s question on the panelists’ view on the effects of the downside of social media.

It was in another forum, “Talk on Raising Kids in the Age of Social Media,” organised by the goodness.me community, that Middle East Eating Disorder Association vice president/clinical psychologist Dr Carine El Khazen, had cited the worrying scenario of children, as young as age nine, becoming anorexic. Hence, missing out on all the dietary and nutrition requirements necessary for their growth and development, due to the seemingly uncontrolled monitoring of their exposure to the social media.

First Emirati certified food scientist/ESMA-Conformity Affairs Department director Dr. Yousef Alsaadi and Silano said proper and correct FOP “are meant to guide (the) healthy.”

Both suggested that medical consultation, including visits with certified clinical dieticians-nutritionists, are a big help as these are able to create a food and nutrition plan according to specific health requirements such as in diabetes and hypertension.

Alsaadi explained the UAE “Traffic Light FOP” uses the red code to caution consumers on food indulgences: “A diet with fewer reds can help you achieve a healthier diet.”

Amber-coded FOPs “are neither high nor low for (any) nutrient. Food with amber helps you balance your diet.”

“Green is low on a specific nutrient that you may wish to avoid over-consuming to improve your diet. The more greens, the healthier the choice. But the sure way is to include a few ambers and reds.”

Silano explained that Italy’s “Battery FOP” indicates the percentage of nutrients such as calories, fats, saturated fats, sugar and salt in the food portion in each pack.

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