A coalition of Non-Governmental organisations has called on the Federal Government to enforce the food fortification policy that is already in existence.
They explained that the call was 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 age of five.
Speaking in Lagos during a campaign and media roundtable to promote fortification compliance and workforce nutrition in Nigeria, themed, “Fortifying Nigeria’s Future’, the NGOs noted that fortified foods could help to prevent micronutrient deficiencies.
The advocacy campaign was sponsored by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center in collaboration with the Nigeria Economic Summit Group and E-Health Africa.
According to reports, in Nigeria, food fortification with a 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 stipulate that at least some food items like sugar, oil, wheat, semolina, and maize flour must be fortified with vitamin A.
Leading the campaign, the 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.
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According to him, workforce nutrition means food for workers in their workplaces noting that productivity is always affected negatively when workers are malnourished.
He pointed out that other things associated with workforce nutrition include enforcing an environment where drugs, alcohol consumption and smoking are not encouraged.
Oloriegbe said in addition to providing food, lifestyle enlightenment and stress management need to be put in place.
The Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said food fortification was a proven way to improve nutrition and health.
He explained that it is 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 anaemia, 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, fibre and protein to food vehicles during production can make them more filling and help people to eat healthier diets” he added.
He, therefore, asked the media to help in raising awareness on the importance of food fortification and workforce nutrition.
Rafsanjani said the media plays a critical role in shaping public opinion and influencing policy, adding that by shining the spotlight on the issue could help 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, Professor Olugbenga Ogunmoyela, Consumer, Advocacy for Food Safety and Nutrition Initiative, said having access to healthy food and water at work was an approach to a healthier workforce.
Ogunmoyela said workers must priotise their health, eating patterns and habits.
He said employers must be concerned about eating habits of their employees and strong health and nutrition policy framework should be instituted by employers.
Prof. Ogunmoyela said employees are what they eat and the health of the next workforce generation would be determined by the health of today’s workforce.
Meanwhile, Prof. Wasiu Afolabi of the Department of Nutrition and Diabetics, College of Food Science and Human Ecology, Federal University of Agriculture, Ogun State, said proper nutrition was critical to building a strong immune system to help 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.