Nutrition and dietetics experts have identified lack of compliance to food fortification by producers as a hindrance to the promotion, understanding and inadequate consumption of fortified foods in Nigeria.
They urged the government to ensure that food producers do the right thing so that people would be aware of food fortification and demand it.
The nutritionists made the appeal at the opening of a three-day workshop on improving food fortification compliance and promotion of workforce nutrition for the media and civil society groups in Lagos.
The training, which began on July 4, was organised by the Nigeria Economic Summit Group and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, through the Third-Party Advocacy Campaign.
They said although malnutrition does not show in everyone, there was a need for people to buy and eat foods that are fortified, as they are cheaper than buying supplements and being sick, and going to the hospital for treatment.
The Project Team Lead, Food Fortification and Work Fortification Nutrition, Mrs. Lovelyn Agbor-Gabriel, who represented the Chief Executive Officer of CISLAC, Malam Auwal Musa, said that stable foods fortified with necessary nutrients remained a challenge in the country.
“This gathering is about poor implementation of food fortification of the 2019 food fortification regulation,” Agbor-Gabriel added.
She also stressed the need for regulatory agencies to monitor compliance by food producers.
“Regulation will ensure that food producers or players within the sector live up to their expectations. The other issue has to do with lack of awareness and poverty which impede the demand for fortified foods,” the project lead team said.
Giving an overview of malnutrition in Nigeria, a lecturer with Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, Dr. Patricia Ukegbu, described Nigeria’s malnutrition situation as a serious public health issue.
According to her, “Based on maternal and child nutrition data, it is news that Nigeria is number one in Africa, in terms of having the number of malnourished children and in the world. We are second to India in terms of this. It is actually sad.
“Out of over 35 million children that are under five years of age, we have 14 of them being stunted. Three million are wasted and 24 million are anemic. That translates to 68 per cent out of the 35 million children.
“The consequences of malnutrition on the economy lead to low life expectancy thereby making the person fall into the low socioeconomic group.
“This will have impacts on the national economy and the nation’s Gross Domestic Product will be affected,” she said.
Ukegbu, who is also the General Secretary, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, said that malnutrition occurs when the body is not getting the right amount of nutrients needed to function well.
She mentioned some of the underlying causes to include inadequate access to food, inadequate care for mothers and children, insufficient health services, unhealthy environment and inadequate dietary intake, among others.
Ukegbu urged Nigerians to diversify their diet by consuming locally produced and grown foods to address malnutrition, especially micronutrient malnutrition.
She also advised people to eat foods fortified with micronutrients as well as food supplements.
“The solution to this is to eat fortified staple foods with the essential vitamins and minerals as this has proven to be an effective way of improving the population nutrition growth level.” The nutritionist added.
Ukegbu also urged the media and civil society to create awareness by educating the masses on all they needed to know about food fortification.
The event had the theme: “Food Fortification and Workforce Nutrition in Nigeria.”