Food composition harmonisation in international nutrition programme management : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy in Management, Massey University
Food composition data underpin some of the most fundamental activities in nutrition. Yet these data are being generated, compiled, disseminated and used without a consistent approach, cohesive framework or proper management guidelines. The International Network of Food Data Systems (INFOODS) was established to address these problems. The aim of this thesis was to examine the concept of the international food composition programme management framework, and extend that concept specifically as it relates to harmonisation issues, into the next stages of elaboration. The research focus was to identify the issues, analyse the problems, and propose solutions. The management challenges identified and analysed included technical harmonisation issues, inter-sectoral coordination of activities, infrastructural capacity-building, and establishing broad inter- and intra-agency affiliations. The two technical harmonisation issues most critical to achieving success were identification of foods, including development of standards and guidelines for food nomenclature, terminology, descriptions, images, and associated documentation; and identification of food components, including all the methodological and documentation considerations. The development of these standards required coordination at the international level, and implementation regionally and nationally. The significant sectors involved in food composition activities included health, agriculture and trade. Each had its own dominant area but the overlaps were significant, and in many cases, coordination of the sectors was not achieved, even at the national level. This led to inefficient use of resources and the production of data that was not suitable for all required purposes. Pursuing greater coordination between sectors led to better allocation of funds for all the activities, and ultimately addressed some of the significant infrastructural problems which were largely related to resource restriction. Trade was shown to be the sector presenting the most demanding of the harmonisation requirements. Affiliation required liaison and agreements with international agencies involved in different — or the same — aspects of food composition work. For food composition harmonisation issues, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the World Trade Organization, and AOAC International were identified as being most relevant for INFOODS to pursue on behalf of the food composition community. Many other aspects of affiliation were identified at the regional and national levels. The INFOODS concept was endorsed as the appropriate framework; with national food composition programmes contributing to and cooperating with regional data centres, which facilitated a coordinated approach to food composition activities for a group of countries; and with a global secretariat undertaking the work of international coordination. Although the concept was endorsed, the framework and the activities required more development.