TechnoServe disclosed that it has designed a self-regulatory system under its Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) programme, to ensure that food processors meet government standards on fortifying their products with essential vitamins and minerals.
This move, however, will enable the government to curb the issues of low fortification of products with essential vitamins and minerals, as Nigeria grapples with increasing food insecurity and the highest malnutrition burden in Africa.
The disclosure was made in an exclusive statement issued to Nairametrics by Tobi Durotoye, the Regional Program Manager, Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) programme, an international non-profit organisation under TechnoServe.
Mr. Durotoye revealed that the new innovation will help to improve the population’s nutrition through increased food fortification and that the Micronutrient Fortification Index (MFI), a self-regulatory system created by the agency, was designed to ensure that food processors meet up with government standards for fortifying their products with essential vitamins and minerals.
He revealed that the MFI will continue to work to drive increased participation, refining the tool to accommodate smaller processors.
In addition to signing more processors, the MFI will implement an integral strategy to increase consumer awareness about the importance of food fortification and industry compliance, as well as deepen partnerships with government and regulatory bodies.
In 2002, the Nigerian government mandated the fortification of main staples including flour, oil, maize, semolina and sugar. Despite this, figures from the National Demographic Health Survey conducted in 2018 shows that Nigeria is lagging behind compared to its peers with an unacceptable proportion of its population malnourished or undernourished.
- For example, anaemia prevalence was reported at about two-thirds of children under-5 (68%) versus a global average of 41.7%.
- Stunting prevalence among children under-5 is at 37% compared to a global prevalence of 21.3% and 32.7% in sub-Saharan Africa.
- The rate of underweight children in Nigeria is 22% versus a global average of 13%.
Hence, as a response to this, the process to develop the MFI was triggered by an industry request made during the inaugural Nigerian Food Processing and Nutrition Leadership Forum in June 2018 to conceptualize a cost-effective strategy that provides commercial incentives for processors to comply with established national standards.
Why this matters
- Participating in the MFI contributes to efforts aimed at establishing a level playing field for compliant and non-compliant processors.
- The index’s ultimate objective is to provide a quality mark for an increasingly discerning consumer base, as the index will play a key role in helping to continue key advancements, which are critical in light of Nigeria’s nutrition challenges.
- With the MFI, companies will be scored against a set of criteria with a focus on personnel, production, public engagement, procurement and partnership, as well as governance.
- The MFI will also source feedback from stakeholders including consumers and sector experts to validate scores, while coordinating independent testing of brands to validate results.
- This exercise culminates in the final output of a ranked list of participating companies.
What they are saying
At the recently concluded Third Annual Food Processing and Nutritional Leadership Forum, convened virtually by Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Mr. Bill Gates, keynote speaker, Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said:
- “The Micronutrient Fortification Index (MFI) is an interesting innovation that will motivate industries to self-regulate in meeting government standards for food fortification. The use of this tool should be adopted by all companies involved in fortification and I believe it should be made available to stakeholders and shareholders alike. We should be able to hold them accountable as they strive to meet industry benchmarks, including compliance with Nigerian Fortification Standards. Government regulatory agencies will definitely find the tool useful in support of industry regulation efforts and consumer expectations.”
What you should know
- The MFI is an industry-led and owned self-assessment tool that allows companies to evaluate existing procedures and practices against national and global fortification standards.
- The development of this new tool is playing a role in recent improvements TechnoServe has reported in Nigerian food fortification rates.
- In the three years since the SAPFF program began, the country’s supply of fortified wheat flour and sugar has increased by 68% and 200% respectively, enabling over 90% of Nigeria’s population to access this more nutritious food.
- So far, twelve processors, including Flour Mills of Nigeria plc, PZ Wilmar Limited, Olam (which now encompasses Dangote Flour Mills) and Honeywell Flour Mills Plc, have signed up to the index, with keen interest from other participants to join the process in 2021 when the index will scale up to capture all players operating in the wheat flour, sugar, salt, and edible oil sectors.