On 23 July 2019 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, SEAMEO RECFON has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the International Medical University (IMU) to collaborate in health and medical research on nutrition and food safety training in Southeast Asia.
The MoU was signed at the university’s Bukit Jalil campus by Prof Abdul Aziz Baba, Vice-Chancellor of IMU and Dr Muchtaruddin Mansyur, MD, Director of SEAMEO RECFON. Prof Winnie Chee, Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics and Dean of IMU’s School of Health Sciences and Ms Dwi Yanti, MBiomed, SEAMEO RECFON Laboratory Supervisor served as witnesses in the MoU signing. The MoU is effective this year until 2021.
The main aims of the 3-year agreement are for IMU and SEAMEO RECFON to:
1) strengthen medical and health research and development;
2) jointly publish and present scientific data;
3) exchange research materials pertaining to nutrition and food safety; and
4) conduct joint training in the areas of nutrition and food safety.
The agreement would also accommodate staff, postgraduate research and student exchanges through field visits, internships, and attendance to courses and other learning events.
As initial collaborative activities lined up for this year, both parties will conduct a series of online lectures on nutrition, and implement a Training Needs Assessment towards designing a food safety curriculum and module development for Southeast Asian participants.
Prof Aziz remarked that as a research-focused institution that highly regards educational excellence, IMU is committed to spearheading new developments to transform education and healthcare in Malaysia.
“IMU strongly believes in grasping opportunities in promoting stronger research collaboration and knowledge transfer with international partners. We are aligning our goals to drive the national agenda to improve the standards and quality of nutrition and food safety in the country.
“This agreement with SEAMEO RECFON is therefore timely as we have begun 3 months of comprehensively training food handlers, operators and dietitians and will be looking to constantly refresh our course with new material based on international food safety guidelines and the latest regional research findings to equip students with the best skills and knowledge to operate professionally in their trade,” he added.
What sets IMU apart from other food safety training centres is that it is the first private university to be accredited to offer the course and students will benefit from food safety and HACPP being already ingrained in the course as part of N&D. IMU is also recognised for its quality and strict management with close monitoring of its own cafeteria and food handlers resulting in the university winning the national Healthy Cafeteria and BeSS award in 2017, a status that is maintained in recent audits.
In his speech, Dr Muchtaruddin Mansyur remarked that it is imperative to emphasize the importance and raise the standards of food safety and nutrition in the region given the changing food consumption behavior of people brought about by varied socio-economic and environmental factors. “There is a mistaken assumption that food contamination is inevitable in street foods. In Southeast Asia, millions of people depend on street foods as a source of nutrition”.
“However, consumers who are attracted by convenience and low prices may overlook aspects of hygiene or sanitation. Many food vendors and handlers lack an understanding of proper food-handling practices that are the potential causes for foodborne diseases.
“This collaboration with IMU is therefore a step forward in creating better awareness, solutions and opportunities for intervention and improvement of food safety through customised trainings and research in the SEA region,” he added.