Although efforts by stakeholders in the Food Processing Industry to improve the nutritional value of edible oil, salt, sugar, wheat flour, and other processed foods is commendable, ensuring full compliance to national standards will be required to shape national public health outcomes to attain the desired levels, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Prof. Osinbajo stated this Thursday at the 3rd Annual Nigeria Food Processing and Nutrition Leadership Forum, held virtually, and organized by the Aliko Dangote Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
According to the Vice President, “the Nigerian government is keen on driving collaborative efforts in enhancing national monitoring and enforcement of fortification quality standards.”
He praised the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) for their innovative work in this regard through the Joint Regulatory Framework.
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Said he: “Industry Compliance with food fortification standards especially in Wheat Flour, Salt and Sugar has also improved. We however need to reach full compliance to be able to shape national public health outcomes to the extent that we desire.”
Food fortification is the practice of enriching processed foods by adding nutrients at higher levels than what the original food provides. This is done to address micronutrient deficiencies across populations.
Commending the efforts of stakeholders in meeting set targets in food fortification, Prof. Osinbajo said “the food systems within the processing sector are fitted for improved nutrition.”
He noted that “we have an enormous opportunity here to reinforce the goal of sustainable food fortification in Nigeria. I am pleased to see that the average compliance rates to national fortification standards had increased from 50% in 2018 to 75% in 2019 and hit the 2020 target of 90%.
“I believe this platform will continue to serve as an opportunity to review progress on an annual basis, and share lessons learned against fortification standards within their respective sectors.”
Speaking particularly about the ingenuity of stakeholders in addressing micronutrient deficiencies in Nigeria, Prof. Osinbajo explained that “the Micronutrient Fortification Index (MFI) is an interesting innovation that will motivate industries to self-regulate in meeting government standards for food fortification. The use of this tool should be adopted by all companies involved in fortification and I believe it should be made available to stakeholders and shareholders alike.”
“We should be able to hold them accountable as they strive to meet industry benchmarks, including compliance with Nigerian Fortification Standards. Government regulatory agencies will definitely find the tool useful in support of industry regulation efforts and consumer expectations.
“The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment and the Ministry of Health each play a critical role and have been at the forefront of food fortification in Nigeria. Through ongoing engagements with the Director Generals (DGs) and core group representatives from NAFDAC, SON, and FCCPC, the collaboration towards enhancing national monitoring and enforcement of fortification quality standards has been strengthened,” Prof. Osinbajo added.
The forum featured presentations by Chairman of Aliko Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; Co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Bill Gates; Director, Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) Programme, Mr Rizwan Yusufali; Group COO, Flour Mills of Nigeria, Mr Boye Olusanya; MD, Dangote Sugar, Mr Ravindra Singhvi; and MD, PZ Wimar, Mr Ipsit Chakrabarti, among others.
The Ministers of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; the Director General of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye; and the Director General of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Mr Babatunde Irukera, also spoke at the forum.