In the midst of global economic crises and escalating food prices, Pacific leaders are meeting in Parramatta, Australia next week to recommend strategies for Pacific Island consumers to get the most nutritional value for their food dollars.

The three-day meeting commences on 5 November 2008 and is being hosted by the Global Health Institute, which is located in the Sydney West Area Health Service's (SWAHS) Parramatta campus.

The meeting is sponsored by AusAID and other collaborating partners include the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for the PACIFIC; UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office; FAO, SPC (Secretariat for the Pacific Community) and the Flour Fortification Initiative.

"Poor nutrition damages people's health, vitality, learning ability and productivity. Economic woes exacerbate the situation if people from the Pacific Islands eliminate the more expensive proteins, fruits, and vegetables from their diets in order to save money," said Professor Glen Maberly, Director, Global Health Institute.

Professor Steven Boyages, Chief Executive, SWAHS said "This meeting will bring together leaders from all over the Pacific to look at strategies to improve the health impact of imported and processed food in the Pacific region."

"Foods lacking in essential vitamins and minerals add to the burden of disabilities such as childhood blindness, impaired intellectual development and birth defects, while high levels of salt, harmful fats and energy dense foods can result in obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes," he continued.

Some of the topics to be discussed in the program include enriching cooking oil with vitamin A; fortifying flour and rice with iron, zinc, and B vitamins, including folic acid; reducing the salt and harmful fat content of processed foods; and developing standards for best practices.

The invitation-only meeting is expected to bring together 100 leaders from every sector involved in food distribution, from government and health entities, which regulate food content to food manufacturers and traders. Participants will discuss locally produced food as well as imported food in the Pacific region and the health impact this has on the Pacific consumers.

The results of the November meeting will become recommendations to the Pacific Islands' Food Summit meeting scheduled for next year.

SOURCE: Press Release