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Abu Dhabi food authority creates atlas to monitor consumption

posted on 28/06/2015: 2721 views

Food and health authorities have joined to produce a guide that will show residents how much food is too much.

The "food atlas” lists different meals and includes pictures of eight different portions, so those reading it can identify how much they have eaten. They can then find out its nutritional value.

"The first thing we ask people is, ‘what did you eat and how much?'” said Dr Edel Dawson- Stanley, a consultant at Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, which released the atlas.

"That's why the food atlas was developed, because when you want to look at food consumption and the amount of nutrients people are eating, you have to think about the amount of food.”

The atlas includes 150 international and local foods. The Dh200,000 project, which took three years to finish, will form the basis for a larger plan that will also look at chronic diseases, nutrition, water consumption and food security.

"We will survey residents on the portion sizes and amount of food they consume,” said Hassan Al Marzouqi, ADFCA's food research manager. "The food atlas is a prerequisite because without this tool we cannot move forward in food consumption research.

"We'll know how much each person consumes of each type of food then we can find out what we need for each emirate. Many things can be achieved through this project but we need more data.”

Alia Ahmad, a Jordanian mother of two, said she paid attention to portion sizes for her children but it was harder for her and her husband when they went out to eat.

"Some places have really large portion sizes for one person so it's up to you to decide when to stop,” Ms Ahmad said. "And that needs a lot of willpower, which can be tough sometimes.

"For my children I am more careful but it's tricky to know the exact amount needed so this atlas could help us in the future.”

Other countries have already found the value of such atlases, Dr Edel Dawson-Stanley said.

"There are some in the UK and in Kuwait but we needed one here, especially for food that is difficult to quantify,” she said.

"Each food has eight pictures with a range of different weight but we know the exact weight of each. Knowing the weight, I can tell the calories, vitamin C, B, carbohydrates, fibre and everything in your portion.

"People eat with their eyes, so if they can visualise portion sizes, it's much easier for them to interpret dietary recommendations.”

Mr Al Marzouqi said: "Our objective is to capture a large variety of food commonly consumed here and include traditional Emirati food, which isn't covered in other atlases. We also made it available in Arabic and English.

The Health Authority Abu Dhabi will also be able to use the data to improve nutrition.

"Once you understand what people eat, you can have public health policies and tell people they need to increase calcium, for instance,” Dr Dawson-Stanley said, adding that the concept of portion size is easily distorted.

The ADFCA launched the initiative in conjunction with the Haad, Seha, Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council and the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi. – The National -


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