The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has trained some selected public institutions in scientific ways of fortifying foods with micro-nutrients to reduce what it calls hidden hunger.
Dr Olapeju Phorbee, Senior Programme Manager, Large Scale Food Fortification for GAIN Nigeria, a not-for-profit international food-allied organization, while addressing newsmen on the theme, ‘Expanding Nutrition Access by Building Capacity, Linking Initiatives and Enhancing Policy (ENABLE),’ said that Nigeria is one of the countries with high rate of micro-nutrient deficiencies.
Dr Phorbee pointed out the implications of micro-nutrient deficiency as high infant morbidity and mortality.
“In Nigeria, there is an alarming rate of micro-nutrient deficiency, otherwise known as hidden hunger.
“It is really alarming because it has a lot of implications on people’s health, especially mortality rate among reproductive women and under-five children,” Phorbee said.
Consequently, she identified a gap in information availability and accessibility in food fortification technologies, even though agencies have been on their toes in making sure that industries fortify their foods before selling out to the consumers.
‘In our previous work, we found out that monitoring and generation of data on fortified foods have been weak in the country, while the regulatory agencies like the SON, NAFDAC are working and doing their best. At some point, we need to have information for decision and we found out that there’s a gap around that. Availability and access to information are becoming an issue as it is affecting policy decisions around food fortification,” she added.
Also, she added that part of their project was to get nutrients into staple foods and condiments such as salt and flour that people consume every day so that they could be fortified.
“There was a time the Federal Government said that industries producing flours, salt and sugar should fortify them with vitamin A, iron and folic acids,” Phorbee said.
Talatu Ethan, the Deputy Director Laboratory Service of Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), reiterated that SON is a national standard regulator and its duty is to set Nigeria’s industrial standards.
Dr Laurina Okoro, Director, Accreditation, Nigeria National Accreditation Service, noted that the equipped laboratories had previous challenges with accreditation and about 75 per cent had previous accreditation issues but were unable to apply for scopes related to food fortification for reasons such as infrastructure and resources needed for the accreditation. The intervention of GAIN, she added, had changed the accreditation landscape.
She explained that there had been three accredited laboratories that could support food fortification with the fourth one under review.
She called on the government to create a policy direction and systems that support food fortification.