Dateline Southeast Asia

Whole grain consumption by pregnant women in Singapore critically low

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Whole grain consumption by pregnant women in Singapore critically low
The first study of its kind has found the intake of whole grains by pregnant women in Singapore is below international guidelines, potentially increasing their risk of developing gestational diabetes.

The research, compiled by Nestlé with the international the EpiGen consortium of epigenetic researchers, is the first comprehensive analysis of whole grain intake among pregnant women in an Asian population.

The dietary intake analysis of around 1,000 women showed that only 30% reported eating any whole grains at all. Daily intake averaged just 23.6g, which is below the amount recommended by the Singapore Health Promotion Board.

Previous studies suggest that a diet rich in whole grains can improve glucose metabolism, reducing the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. In Singapore, rates of this condition, which can increase the chances of caesarean birth, are among the highest in the world.

A whole grain-rich diet is also thought to help reduce the likelihood of both mother and child developing type 2 diabetes in later life.

"Understanding and improving the nutrition of mothers-to-be and infants during the first 1,000 days of life is a priority for Nestlé Research," said Thomas Beck of Nestlé.

"Our partnership with EpiGen is helping to further our understanding of how the diet and lifestyles of pregnant women can influence not only their own health, but also the future growth and development of their children.”

Indonesia to court more trade with China

Indonesia’s Trade Ministry has been pulling out the stops to boost exports to Chinese market, a senior trade ministry official has said. 

Nus Nuzulia Ishak said Indonesia was not intimidated by the potential of the Chinese market. “The move to promote exports to China is meant to give China a chance to find new Indonesian suppliers,” he said. 

He said the ministry would begin promoting Indonesian commodities at trade shows in China and has set up a distribution centre in Nanning, China. 

The so-called House of Indonesia, which will adopt a business-to-business concept, “will ensure that Indonesian products find a wider access to the Chinese market," he said.

Indonesia’s non-oil and gas exports to China have grown by over 3% over the last five years. 

China is the country’s main trading partner as well as the biggest destination of Indonesian exports, with overall trade reaching US$48.2bn in 2014—accounting for more than a quarter of Indonesia’s trade with the rest of the world in the same year.

Tate & Lyle’s Claria starches ‘will meet need for clean label in SE Asia’

Food ingredients major Tate & Lyle has launched its Claria functional starches in Southeast Asia, where it believes there is a growing market for clean label foods.

The company says that Claria will meet this demand by providing manufacturers with similar functionality to chemically modified food starches with the added benefits of a clean taste and clean label. 

In a media statement, Tate & Lyle said that nearly one-quarter of all new global product launches were positioned as label-friendly in 2013. This trend, it said, is also strongly reflected in Southeast Asian countries with penetration levels of up to 20-25% for new clean label food products, with 21% growth over the past few years. 

Tate & Lyle recognised the need for a high-performing starch with similar functionality to a chemically modified starch with all the benefits of a clean label​,” said Gerd Frank Pedersen  of the company’s Texturants group. 

Although consumers demand simpler ingredient labels, taste and product experience are still primary drivers. The Claria line helps provide a solution to address both of these needs​.”

The Claria line was first launched in October 2014 in the Americas and Europe. 

Minister says Malaysia is driving palm oil R&D

Malaysia’s minister for plantations said the country would continue to undertake research and development on new palm-based products, including nutraceuticals. 

Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said that the Malaysian Palm Oil Board’s offices in the US, Europe, Africa, Pakistan and China would help develop the industry by continually working with authorities and businesses to increase demand for palm oil for food and non-food sectors. 

We have carried out extensive research with international centres of excellence in our response to the anti-palm oil campaigns, particularly on nutritional aspects​,” said Uggah, who added that the country was playing its part in driving sustainability alongside certification bodies like RSPO.

“Currently, 1.29m hectares of oil palm plantations in Malaysia are RSPO-certified and these contribute to 4.8m tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil,” he said.

IMCD opens food and nutrition centre in HCMC

IMCD, a Dutch speciality chemicals and food ingredients distributor, has opened a Vietnam office in Ho Chi Minh City to focus on the food and nutrition, personal care and plastics market sectors. 

This opening marks the latest move by IMCD to grow its presence in Asia-Pacific, where it is already served by presences in Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. 

“With an aim to apply our successful European business model to Asia-Pacific, IMCD has significantly strengthened our presence in the region over recent years,” said Albert Stevens, vice-president IMCD Asia. 

Now offering local presence through its office in Ho Chi Minh City, IMCD looks forward to developing the business in Vietnam for the future​.” 

Malaysian border state could be central to halal development with Thailand

The ruler of Perlis, a Malaysian state that borders Thailand, called for more bilateral halal food trade between his country and Thailand to cater for increasing demand.

Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Jamalullail said the industry needed to be developed to capitalise on Malaysia’s well-established halal certification and southern Thailand’s rich agriculture sector. 

Such trade would also be benefited under plans to develop an inland port in the Perlis border town of Padang Besar, which would facilitate the international export of halal products from southern Thailand. 

Tank Syed added that the Malaysian federal government is offering tax benefits to halal investors through the Malaysian Investment Development Authority at the Lembah Chuping industrial area. 

NCDs responsible for over half of Brunei’s deaths

More than half of Brunei’s deaths are the result of non-communicable diseases, according to its health minister.

For Brunei Darussalam, an upward trend for chronic and non-communicable diseases has continued to rise​,” said the minister at the opening of a health initiative. 

“This scenario is very worrying, not just globally but also in Brunei. This issue is being given serious attention. Therefore, a number of methods and approaches have been implemented to contain and prevent such diseases from becoming more widespread.”

Official figures showed that 52.5 per cent of the country’s 1,470 deaths last year were caused by the likes of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

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