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Consultation Meeting between ICC and FAO-ESN Director

ICC has a consultation meeting with Food and Nutrition Division of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO-ESN) on 8th August 2022. This is a long pending meeting with the main objective to correct the misconception about coconut oil. The meeting was convened virtually. The other objectives of the official meeting were to know the 2022 ESN FAO program and policies, to align the ICC and ESN FAO program in accelerating the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs), to exchange ideas on important topics of sustainable food systems for healthy diets and improved nutrition and latest scientific evidence relating to coconut and its value-added products. Further to discuss the potential participation of ESN FAO in ICC’s webinars/workshops or conferences, and to establish a constructive relationship between ICC and FAO-WHO.

The ICC team was led by the Chair of ICC-Scientific Advisory Committee on Health (SACH), Dr. Fabian Dayrit, Professor of Chemistry, Ateneo de Manila University, and accompanied by the ICC Executive Director, Dr. Jelfina C. Alouw, Mr. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr., Chair of the Technical Working Group (TWG) of ICC who is an Administrator of the Philippines Coconut Authority (PCA), and ICC Assistant Director, Ms. Mridula Kottekate, and ICC Partners, Ms. Josyline C. Javelosa, Ph.D., Agriculture Attaché and Deputy Permanent Representative to Rome-based Agencies of the United Nations, Embassy of the Philippines, Rome, Italy. 

At the outset of the meeting Dr. Jelfina C. Alouw, welcomed all the participants and expressed her gratitude to Dr. Lynnette Neufeld, Director of FAO-ESN for accepting the ICC request and agreeing to this consultation meeting. ICC is requesting WHO/FAO for a meeting since 2017. This is the first time ICC got a positive response from FAO. Executive Director presented ICC as an intergovernmental organization under the aegis of the UN-ESCAP, the general activities and program in supporting the member countries for the achievement of SDGs and food security.

Dr. Fabian Dayrit, Chair of ICC Scientific Advisory Committee on Health (SACH) presented about the Coconut Oils, diets of coconut and scientific evidence against coconut oils and some of the recommendations of the FAO against fats and fatty acids. He said that coconut oil is a saturated oil with about 63% medium chain fatty acid (MCFA), and coconut oil has negligible cholesterol while animal fat has a lot of cholesterol. So, a quantitative definition of ‘saturated fat” is needed, and vegetable oil should be differentiated from animal fats on the basis of cholesterol content. He proposed to hold a joint ICC – FAO/WHO technical conference to review the scientific information on coconut oil with regard to its effects on health and nutrition.

Dr. Lynnette Neufeld briefly mentioned the activities of the Food and Nutrition Division of FAO. She added that FAO is working in close coordination with WHO and for organizing any technical meetings with food and nutrition. In response to the proposal submitted by Dr. Dayrit, she enquired whether ICC has ever approached WHO for any such technical conference.

Dr. Neufeld mentioned that this meeting has enlightened her knowledge about ICC which is an intergovernmental organization, and its beneficiaries include smallholder farmers. She expressed her apprehension that FAO/WHO never had any technical conference purely based on a single commodity. Moreover, being a nutritionist, she requested more evidence available to prove the goodness of coconut and coconut diets. She admitted that the dietary/voluntary guidelines issued by FAO-WHO are quite old and need revision with sufficient evidence based on the work done by nutritionists and academicians. She further added that she will have a dialogue with her counterpart in WHO and get back to ICC to proceed further. She assured that she will refer to more documentary evidence and studies done on coconut and coconut diets.

There was a fruitful and productive discussion and the meeting concluded with the closing remarks of Mr. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., Administrator and Chair ICC TWG.

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