FG, Gates Foundation, Dangote Engage Food Processors on Food Fortification

Food processing and nutrition leadership forum PHOTOS BY SOLA FAGBEMIThe Federal Government of Nigeria, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Aliko Dangote Foundation have joined forces to fight acute malnutrition in Nigeria by engaging with the behemoths in food processing sector as well as regulatory agencies on prioritizing food fortification right from the processing stage.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajia Aisha Abubakar, the Director, Nutrition and Global Development, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Shawn Baker, President Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, BUA Group President, Abdul-Samad Rabiu among other leading processors at a forum in Lagos signed a communique to boost enforcement of key regulations and incentivizing adherence; integrate food fortification as key performance indicator, incorporate framework evaluation as well as foster the enabling environment that provides technical solution for sustainable production.

The Government representative, Abubakar, speaking on the agreement said the essential benefits of food fortification were enormous and crucial to resolving the health challenges especially in the nation’s minority population. She pledged that the government would work towards making the operating environment for processors less tedious.

“This meeting was to ensure that everybody is on board. We had a meeting with the CEOs to ensure that they will commit to ensuring that they fortify their products and government will also commit to making sure that whatever challenge they have in the industry which is basically the cost of nutrients and that government is able to do something to reduce their cost of production,” she said.

According to the Director, Nutrition and Global Development Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Shawn Baker, the Foundation will increase its focus on providing technical support to industries with the backing of Technoserve, an international development agency contracted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to implement a project on Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF). Support will also be given to government agencies in the bid to stifle regulations on unwholesome practices in the country.

He said: “We have actually been working on a large scale of food fortification over 15 years because after when you think about malnutrition, you think about a child on the street but a more huge problem are deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals or immune functions which can lead to death, they can lead to birth defects. But food fortification is almost a miraculous way you can help resolve that by adding to commonly consumed food in the case of Nigeria, Salt, flour cooking oil and sugar. The industries represented at the dialogue represents over 70 per cent of the market of all of those foods consumed by Nigerian households every day by effectively putting in those nutrients to ensuring that mums and kids are getting many of the essential nutrients.”

The Managing Director, PZ Wilmar West Africa, Mr Santoshi Pillai voicing the stance of the processors assured that processing procedures will be made to align with global best practices in order to win the fight against malnutrition.

According to him, it is imperative industries and private sector partners to address key themes of understanding malnutrition and how it can be resolved in terms of food fortification. “Education of Nigerian consumers, lack of compliance, the role of Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in ensuring that there is compliance will be our focus. In terms of cost, there is an assumption that food fortification is very costly. So we discussed that we should bring the cost of these items down and then we discussed that we should look at the government reducing tariffs.”

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