FG restates support for fortification of foods with micronutrients -Minister
The Federal Government will continue to support efforts at fortifying foods with micronutrients, Health Minister Dr Osagie Ehanire has said.
Ehanire made this known during the 4th Annual Nigerian Food Processors and Nutrition Leadership Forum on Thursday in Lagos.
The forum was organised by the Aliko Dangote Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), and TechnoServe, under the Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) programme.
The SAPFF Programme aims at addressing the lingering challenges in the food fortification sector using a market-based approach to assist over 90 food processors increase their capacity to produce and sell fortified foods to local markets.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that fortification is the process of adding key vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health to staple foods like edible oil, wheat flour, and sugar.
Ehanire said food fortification was an important pillar of health strategy, noting that it assists in disease prevention and health promotion.
He said that government would broaden the scope of inculcating micronutrients in foods to stem the tide of malnutrition arising from lack of micronutrients.
Also speaking, Aliko Dangote, Chairman, Dangote Foundation, said that the private sector remains the engine of growth for the Nigerian economy.
“By creating a common set of compliance standards while also giving companies the tools they need to effectively fortify their foods, we are creating a sustainable path to delivering Nigerians food that will help them live healthier, more productive lives.
“Better nutrition for our consumers means better health and economic development for our nation,” Aliko said.
Also speaking, Bill Gates, Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who participated by video conference, said that large-scale food fortification was one of the most effective tools to ensure people get the vitamins and minerals they need to thrive.
“As we look to support an equitable recovery from the pandemic, countries and communities will need to deploy proven solutions to promote cognitive development, school performance, productivity, and earning potential.
“Partners in the public and private sectors must work together to accelerate progress on fortification in the year ahead to realise the individual and collective benefits to health and development,” Gates said.
Also, Mr William Warshauer, Chief Executive Officer, TechnoServe, said that progress had improved since SAPFF programme started, in spite some setbacks over the past year.
Warshauer said that data released by the firm demonstrated sustained fortification compliance for some key micronutrients and a decline for others.
He said this was largely due to supply chain and logistic issues caused by COVID-19 which disrupted companies’ ability to secure essential fortification materials, especially vitamin A.
Warshauer said that data released by the firm showed compliance levels for salt fortified with iodine was sustained at more than 90 per cent.
He noted that compliance levels for edible oil fortified with vitamin A increased from 25 per cent in 2018 to 33 per cent in 2020 and further improved to 49 per cent by the end of 2021.
According to him, compliance levels for wheat flour fortified with vitamin A, vitamin B3, and iron increased from 56 per cent in 2018 to 64 per cent in 2021.
He, however, noted that the rating was a drop from the 93 per cent recorded in 2020.
Warshauer added that compliance levels for sugar fortified with vitamin A also decreased from 31 per cent in 2018 to 26 per cent in 2021.
He noted that it was a drop from the 94 per cent recorded in 2020.
“The dramatic progress before the pandemic indicates the strong potential of Nigerian companies for fortification practices that can improve nutrition on a large scale,” he said.
The World Bank data showed that poor nutrition costs Nigeria over 1.5 billion dollars in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) yearly, threatening the health of citizens and the economic potential of the nation.
It said that fortifying staple foods like oil, flour, salt, and sugar with key vitamins and minerals was one of the most scalable, sustainable, and cost-effective tools to combat malnutrition in Nigeria and worldwide.