In a bid to tackle issues of malnutrition, CEOs of leading processing companies in Nigeria have committed to the fortification of all processed food and beverage products in the country.
The CEOs made the commitment at the Nigeria Food Processing and Nutrition forum organized by the Dangote Foundation in collaboration with the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation and Technoserve in Lagos recently.
According to the CEOs, committing to high-quality fortification of essential vitamins and minerals is a critical step in addressing the deficiency of basic nutrients in children’s healthy development.
“We are all committed to ensuring that we fortify our products and comply with standards,” Aliko Dangote, president, and CEO, Dangote group said.
“We have all agreed that if the regulatory agencies enter our markets and find food products with less than required nutrients or not fortified at all, the firm producing them should be shut-down,” Dangote said.
He called for the removal of import duty on the importation of premixes (micronutrients) used by processors for fortification.
Dangote also urged the government to tackle the issue of smuggling, noting that most of the food products imported into the country are not fortified while calling on regulatory agencies to be more aggressive in implementing the policy.
According to the United Nations, International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) about 2.5 million children under the age of five are malnourished and have stunted growth in Nigeria.
Aisha Abubakar, Minister of State, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment said that it is a government policy that all processed food products should be fortified because of its enormous benefits in a child’s development.
“We had meetings with the CEO’s and they have committed to fortifying their food products and the government also commit to making sure that every challenge that they have in the industry which basically have to do with the cost of premixes is addressed to reduce their production cost,” Abubakar said.
Also speaking to journalists, Shawn Baker, director-nutrition programme, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stated that Nigeria has one of the largest burdened of malnutrition in the world which needs to be addressed.
“Most children in Nigeria do not get enough essential vitamins and minerals in their diets that the child needs for brain and immune system development, eye sight and building adequate blood supply,” Baker said.
“One of the most cost effective ways is to get essential vitamins and minerals to children-is by adding these micronutrients to the food we eat,” he said.
He stated that the foundation is supporting the fortification of food at different level- both at the farm and processing levels.
“We support food processors with the direct technical assistant, independent monitoring and we work in partnership with the Dangote Foundation on the advocacy of fortification in Nigeria,” he added.Source: Business Day