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‘Why SMEs must adopt micro-nutrient food fortification’

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In a bid to scale processors’ compliance level in food fortification, TechnoServe Nigeria has urged operators of small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) in the food industry to adopt the micro-nutrient fortification index (MFI) model to self-regulate.

Food fortification is a tool to tackle malnutrition, micronutrient deficiency that causes hidden hunger. Stunted growth, wasting, and obesity.

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The MFI is a self-assessment tool that is built internally by businesses to help measure their food fortification compliance levels. It is an innovative mechanism that helps the food industry to self-regulate.

“The MFI is a proactive measure to increase food fortification compliance in the country,” Ike IIegbune, lead consultant-MFI, TechnonoServe, said during a presentation at the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST) 44 annual conference.   

“It is a good way without regulation to build resilience to their businesses and it is something I encourage SMEs to adopt,” he said. 

Ilegbune said that the MFI helps in derisking companies’ exposure to failures of reaching recommended standards in the area of fortification compliance. 

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He said the index is made up of three important components, including the self-assessment tools, industry intelligence, and periodic independent testing. 

He explained that the self-assessment tool is built internally to ensure companies measure their processes and that the industry intelligence involves using credible resources to measure.

He added that the periodic independent testing involves going to the market places and deploying clear and validating protocols to select products and test for compliance. 

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According to him, these tools are based on a solution called the production, procurement, partnerships, public engagement, and governance. 

IIegbune said the MFI model that TechnoServe had built had worked successfully in other industries, adding that he would like to see companies reporting on MFI in their financials and stating progress made.

“We are currently involved in the consultation of the MFI and we want to see a gradual movement to sustainability,” he said.

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“By 2024, we hope to deliver two models – the hybrid member of the MFI and a commercial private player that would own it,” he added. 

TechnoServe Nigeria, through its Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) initiative, is increasing the compliance of processors in fortification of their products with essential micronutrients by understanding their challenges and helping them in closing the gaps.

Larry Umunna, Regional Director, West Africa TechnoServe, said the SAPFF project, in the last three and a half years, had provided customised assistance to the flour mills, edible oil, and the sugar processing centres. 

He noted that the project had worked with lots of food processors across the flour, sugar, and edible oil industry, saying that there had been a significant increase in compliance level from 50 to 75 per cent as of the last count and that the target is to get to 90 per cent at the end of the project.

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