EPHI hosts International Workshop on Periodic Table of Food Initiative

EPHI hosts International Workshop on Periodic Table of Food Initiative

ADDIS ABABA – December 15, 2023 (EPHI/FSNRD) - The Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) hosted a three-day Global Workshop on Periodic Table of Food Initiative - Centers of Excellence (PTFI-CoE) here from December 12-14, 2023. 

The Global Workshop, which was attended by PTFI Center of Excellences drawn from different continents, was opened by the Director General of EPHI, Dr. Messay Hailu.

Dr. Messay said in his opening speech that EPHI is among the pioneer institutions in Africa in the establishment of the Food Composition Table in 1969. He said that the Institute has been exerting maximum efforts in generating quality and comprehensive national food composition data on foods consumed by the population to enable the  designing of appropriate policies and implementation of the needed interventions in agriculture, nutrition, and health. Taking this into consideration, EPHI has updated the Food Composition Table four times, and the follow-up version will be published in early 2024, according to the Director General of EPHI.

Dr. Messay underscored in his keynote address that the efforts made by EPHI in the sector have led it to be selected as a Center of Excellence for the Periodic Table of Food Initiative (PTFI), a global initiative  that works towards generating comprehensive and quality food composition data to improve human and planetary health. “With this global role, the EPHI will serve as a training hub for the nation and the region. Moreover, this will create the opportunity to further build our institutional capacity and enable us to explore the untapped indigenous food resources for improving diet and health,” Dr. Messay noted.

The Director General expressed hope that as most of the workshop participants, or CoEs, arrived here from different continents with the same role and responsibilities, their collective efforts “will significantly contribute” to the transformation of food systems for a healthy planet and healthy people.

Welcoming workshop participants at the EPHI Office in Addis Ababa, Dr. Masresha Tessema, Director of the Food Science and Nutrition Research Directorate (FSNRD), with EPHI said that PTFI is a global effort to create a public database of the biochemical composition and function of the food we eat using the latest mass spectrometry technologies and bioinformatics established in 2019. “EPHI was selected as the Center of Excellence for PTFI in East and Central Africa, while Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology got the chance from Ghana for Western Africa. The PTFI is aiming to enable data-driven solutions to improve human and planetary health,” Dr. Masresha said.

Dr. Endale Amare, EPHI – CoE Coordinator, said that EPHI hosted the first global gathering of all the CoEs drawn from Fiji, Australia, Mexico, Colombia, the Netherlands, Ethiopia, Ghana, Thailand, and the USA. The gathering was used as a platform to share experiences in the overall implementation of the PTFI’s mission, according to Dr. Endale.

Gina Kennedy is Director of Research Transformation in Impact and principal scientist with the alliance of Bioversity and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, commonly called CIAT (Centro International de Agricultura Tropical). She said that PTFI had the Workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as it has the strong partnership with EPHI, which is a PTFI Center of Excellence. “We see EPHI as one of the leaders for the region of East Africa in foodomics, and it is also a pre-central location to organize the workshop,” Gina said.

Asked why EPHI was selected as Center of Excellence in East and central Africa, Gina said that as the Institute meet all the criteria requested at the regional level, it has been awarded the honor. “It was a competition request, for the proposals in several laboratories throughout Africa. Their proposals and two labs were chosen through a competition of review of the proposals, review of the facilities of the labs, review of the strength of organization and service of leaders of the region as well as consideration of the ability of the center to do capacity development and training,” Gina said. EPHI was thus selected as it was successful in meeting all the above stated criteria, according to Gina.  

The notice of the award of PTFI Center of Excellence in East and Central Africa indicates that EPHI will partner with PTFI Secretariat to advance food composition analysis and transitional impact in the region. According to the notice, the CoE will serve three functions. These are: drive research innovation, lead capacity strengthening initiatives and champion translation of science in connection with food value chain and civil society partners.

According to EPHI, a PTFI Center of Excellence based in Ethiopia, the Workshop was held with the objectives of exchanging information through in-person updates, problem solving of identified common issues, brainstorming on cross-center research synergies and outcomes and exploring ideas to translate findings for different audiences

Around 40 researchers, scientists and other concerned individuals including two representatives drawn from the members of PTFI were in attendance at the International Workshop conducted at the conference center of EPHI. (EPHI/FSNRD).