The Federal Government has called on stakeholders in the Nigeria’s food industry to create more awareness on micronutrients’ deficiencies, especially as it affects children and women.
Mrs Olusola Idowu, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Budget and National Planning and National Convener, UN Food Systems Summit Dialogue, made the call at the National Fortification Dialogue, in Abuja.
“Micronutrients deficiencies also known as hidden hunger are common in Nigeria in children less than five years of age and women being worst hit.
“The commonest calculated deficiency include Vitamin A, Iron and Zinc.
“It has been recorded that 42 per cent of children less than five years of age are Vitamin A deficient, while zinc and iron deficiency affects an estimated six million children less than five years of age in Nigeria,” she said.
She added that food fortification remained a strategic option for controlling micronutrients, which might have been lost due to poor handling and processing methods of food products.
In his remarks, Dr Michael Ojo, Country Director, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), said that the organisation would continue to work with the government, businesses and civil society organisations to transform food systems in the country.
He added that the dialogue would provide an opportunity to discuss on how to deliver specific nutritious foods, especially to the vulnerable population.
“GAIN is driven by a vision of a world without malnutrition in which all people have access to and consume nutritiously safe foods.
Mrs Omolara Okunlola, a representative from the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), said the government had been able to raise awareness on food fortification by ensuring that manufacturers labeled their products with specific micronutrients inherent in such products.
“Another thing the government has been able to do from the point of standards is that most of the packaged products in the market that are under voluntary fortification is to ensure that the products are labelled as such and you have to declare what you have added.
“For instance, if you pick your milk in the market, you will find out that some of them are claiming about 26 vitamins and minerals, it is labelled as such and we ensure that those micronutrients are there,” she said.
Hajiya Ummul-Khairi Ahmed, a Deputy Director, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), added that food fortification is just one aspect of fighting malnutrition in Nigeria.
She called on parents to encourage their children to eat vegetables, fruits and cereals to improve their nutritional status.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event had both physical and virtual participants.(NAN)