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Stakeholders champion digital solutions to guarantee Nigerians access to nutritional staple foods

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Wednesday, March 16th, 2022
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By Gabriel Olawale

Worried by the increasing cases of micronutrient deficiencies in Nigeria, International partners, and the Nigerian government has unveiled a digitized system to ensure staple foods are fortified with the right levels of essential vitamins and minerals to support good health and nutrition.

The programme which was facilitated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Nigerian government, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, TechnoServe among others will enable the government and partners to work with fortified food producers on the state-of-the-art system to secure nutrients will also track to ensure they are reaching Nigerian consumers efficiently.

Speaking in Lagos during the launch of BMGF Large Scale Food Fortification Strategy, Country Director for GAIN Nigeria, Dr. Michael Ojo said that the digitized system will allow companies to assure every customer that the nutrient content of their product is guaranteed, reducing health risks and offering a direct path to longer and healthier lives.

“The fortification of wheat flour, maize flour, vegetable oil, margarine, salt, and sugar has been mandatory in Nigeria for over 10 years but assuring that the micronutrient content of the foods meets Nigeria’s national standards has been challenging.

Foods have often been found to be inadequately fortified or even unfortified when spot-tested at the market level. This has slowed the contributions of food fortification to fighting Nigeria’s high levels of micronutrient deficiencies, which include life-threatening deficiencies in iron, vitamin A, zinc, folic acid, and iodine. However, the fortification of wheat flour and maize flour with iron can reduce the prevalence of anaemia by as much as 34 percent.

Corroborating his views, Technical Manager from PZ Wilmar, Ogunbela Oludare said that the digitization initiative will be a win-win for the private sector and public health in Nigeria, “the digitization will help Nigerian producers to ensure that we are meeting national standards for fortification while simultaneously increasing the efficiency and profitability of our businesses.”

On his part, Director of Nutrition at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Andreas Bluethner said that the foundation is investing in food fortification markets to provide quality nutritious foods that are affordable for all consumers.

“Digital innovation will allow nutritional improvements to be assessed and maintained over time. The selected producers to participate in the pilot phase will receive support from a team of digital experts to co-design and install the new digital quality assurance/quality control system.”

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