The fortification of processed food is a way of addressing micronutrient deficiencies in diets, ensuring processed food can deliver specific nutrients required for good health. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Micronutrient malnutrition (MNM) affects all age groups, but young children and women of reproductive age tend to be among those most at risk of developing micronutrient deficiencies.
Food processors in Nigeria have now expressed commitment towards achievement of 90 percent fortification of processed food in the country by 2020. Last year when the Nigeria Food Processing and Nutrition Leadership Forum was first held, the level of fortification in processed foods was 50 percent, and has now increased to 75 percent, following a year of strategic efforts towards the goal of food fortification in Nigeria. A target of 90 percent has now been set before the forum reconvenes next year.
Aliko Dangote, president/ CEO, Dangote Group, and vice- chair (Private sector) of the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Council, disclosed this in Lagos recently after a closed-door meeting of leading food processors in Nigeria.
The forum sought to sustain momentum on food fortification and compliance to standards, which currently targets; edible oil, salt, sugar, and wheat flour. The goal is however, for every processed food in Nigeria to be fortified, including rice, a widely consumed staple by millions of Nigerians.
While the ‘ big food processors’, which had some of their CEOS in attendance at the meeting have expressed their commitment to increasing the volume of fortified food in Nigeria, Dangote stressed that “regulatory agencies should not only focus on the big ones but also the smaller companies”. This, he said is to ensure that the smaller players who together account for substantial share in the food market, are also complying with the stipulated standards for the benefit of all Nigerians.
As explained by Osagie Ehanire, minister of health who was also at the event, fortifying food with vitamins and other essential nutrients that are vital to the health of Nigerians, will particularly contribute to the development of healthy children.