NGOs Call on FG to Enforce Food Fortification Policy
A coalition of NGOs has called on the Federal Government to enforce the food fortification policy that is already in existence.
The call, according to them, is necessitated by the rate of hunger, malnutrition and lack of nutrients in the food system in the country, which aid impairment of physical and mental growth among citizens especially children under the ages of five.
They made the call in Lagos on Thursday during a campaign launch and media roundtable on Promoting Fortification Compliance and Workforce Nutrition in Nigeria with the theme: “Fortifying Nigeria’s Future.”
The advocacy campaign was sponsored by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC) in collaboration with Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) and E-Health Africa.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that in Nigeria, food fortification with focus on vitamin A, iron, zinc, iodine, and other micronutrient remains key in the effort to eliminate micronutrient malnutrition.
As a result, Nigeria has formulated policies and passed laws that say that at least some food items like sugar, oil, wheat, semolina, and maize flour must be fortified with vitamin A.
Leading the campaign, Senate Chairman Committee on Health, Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said that the government needs to implement the policy by also providing a meal a day for its workforce.
Oloriegbe said workforce nutrition means food for workers in their workplaces noting that productivity is always affected negatively when workers are malnourished.
He said that other things associated with workforce nutrition included enforcing environment where drugs, alcohol consumption and smoking were not encouraged.
He said in addition to providing food, lifestyle enlightenment and stress management need to be put in place.
In his welcome remarks, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said that food fortification was a proven way to improve nutrition and health.
Rafsanjani said it was a simple, cost-effective intervention that could be used to add essential nutrients to foods that are commonly consumed by large populations.
He said fortified foods could help to prevent micronutrient deficiencies including anemia, Vitamin A deficiency, and iodine deficiency.
“These deficiencies can lead to a range of health problems, including impaired cognitive development, stunted growth, and increased risk of infection.
“Fortified foods can also help to address the problem of overweight and obesity. By adding Micronutrients, Vitamins, fiber and protein to food vehicles during production can make them more filling and help people to eat healthier diets” he said.
He, therefore, asked the media to help in raising awareness of the importance of food fortification and workforce nutrition.
He said the media plays a critical role in shaping public opinion and influencing policy.
Rafsanjani said the media, by shining a spotlight on this issue, could helped to make a real difference in the lives of millions of Nigerians.
He also asked for the support of regulators, members of the National Assembly, civil society organizations, and food producers to ensure that the food fortification policy of 2019 was implemented effectively, and that Nigerians have access to fortified foods.
Also, Prof Olugbenga Ogunmoyela, Consumer, Advocacy for Food Safety and Nutrition Initiative (CAFSANI), said that healthy food and water at work was an approach to a healthier workforce.
Ogunmoyela said that as the World celebrates Mental Awareness Week, workers must priotise their health, eating patterns and habits.
He said that employers must be concerned about eating habits of their employees and strong health and nutrition policy framework should be instituted by employers.
He said that employees are what they eat and the health of the next workforce generation would be determined by the health of today’s workforce.
In his presentation, Prof Wasiu Afolabi, Department of Nutrition and Diabetics, College of Food Science and Human Ecology, Federal University of Agriculture, Ogun State, said that proper nutrition was critical for building a strong immune system and helping the body to fight off diseases and infection.
Afolabi recommended that large-scale food fortification with multiple micronutrients should be encouraged for improved coverage and effectiveness.