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Food processing firms pledge more action on micronutrient fortification

By JOHN MARK UKOKO

With mounting nutritional challenges facing millions of Nigerians, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, private sector operators in food processing industries and government regulatory agencies have pledged commitment towards achieving optimal levels in compliance with food fortification.

This followed as Dangote Sugar won an award as the leading company with significant strides in institutionalizing large-scale food fortification best practices.

The Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) Forum is a gathering of Nigerian Food Processors and Nutrition Leadership where critical and concerned players in the food processing sectors appraise the food fortification situation in the country, which is meant to correct the present food system that has been linked to poverty, hunger, malnutrition, disease, unemployment and a hosts of other challenges.

Speaking at the event, President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, who presided over the meeting, said food fortification remained a health issue for which members of the forum are committed to complying in the foods their organisations focus on in the interest of nutritional health of Nigerians.

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Dangote recalled how the forum proposed periodic meetings to assess how far the compliance had been expressed among industry players. He disclosed that the 2021 report was an improvement on the previous report and urged members of the forum to double their efforts in shoring up compliance in the area where it still fell below expectation, The Trumpet gathered.

The industrialist assured that there was no going back in achieving full micronutrient fortification compliance, especially in the COVID-19 pandemic era, to mitigate the effect of the virus. On his part, President of Bill Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, commended the efforts of the Nigerian private sector involved in the food fortification process and the affected government agencies for brainstorming on ways to ensure that fortification compliance is achieved so that Nigerians could overcome malnutrition.

He said the foundation was delighted at the privilege of being involved in the task and urged all stakeholders not to rest on their oars until full fortification compliance is achieved. Giving the report of milestones and compliance trends covered by the forum in 2021, Dominic Schofield of Techno Serve listed 14 compliances covering 31 brands as having joined the Micronutrients Fortification Index (MFI) ranking for wheat, flour, edibles, oil, sugar and salt, among others.

Dangote Sugar was named among the four companies with substantial compliance in the four food categories, with others being Flour Mills, which was awarded in two categories and Raffles Oil LFTZ Enterprise.

The essence of the MFI ranking, Schofield explained, is to allow members of the public to have access to information on the fortification of the four staple foods and help encourage companies to meet their fortification targets.

He said: “The recent implementation of COVID-19 pandemicrelated border controls has enabled industrially processed edible oil producers adequate fortification to capture increased market share and ensure wider consumer reach. “The wheat and flour sector demonstrably attempted to sustain com pliance levels in the last year, but distrusted access to good quality Vitamin A continue to pose a risk to good performance.

“With the promise of renewed focus on opportunities to innovate in business processes and digitisation that better integrate food fortification and foster trust and with the commitment and collective action on the part of all food fortification stakeholders, Nigerian processors can optimally comply and reach levels achieved prior to the pandemic.

In his remarks, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who joined the meeting virtually from Abuja, expressed Federal Government’s appreciation to the forum, especially the sponsors, for sustaining the food fortification efforts in the overall interest of Nigerians.

As the forum celebrated over 90 per cent compliance with fortification, Osinbajo commended the private sec- tor for the feat, adding that the private sector deserved commendation having gone that far despite the chal- lenges they had to contend with daily.

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