By Emmanuel Edukugho
NO less than two billion people including a yet to be determined number of Nigerians are at risk of nutritional deficiency, especially lack of Vitamin A.
The gloomy predicarment on global health, issued by the Country Technical Consultant for Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, (GAIN), Prof. Olugbenga Ogunmoyela, is widely seen as a wake-up call.
Speaking to the press at the National Secretariat of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST), Lagos, last week, Ogunmoyela, who is also Dean, College of Food Science, Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State, said the importance of Vitamin A in the diet is often overlooked to the detriment of the populace.
His words: â€œIn the course of food processing, a lot of nutrients and vitamins are lost. Most people are affected by this lack of nutrients and based on a national nutrition survey conducted, it was found that some populations in Nigeria are severely malnourished in nutrients â€“ essentially Vitamin A deficiency.
â€œIn some areas, about 40 per cent of the population is affected while those most at risk are children below five years of age and mothers. Government needs to do something.â€
He said three major food products were selected due to their wide usage for fortifications of necessary nutrients. These are flour (Semolina), sugar and vegetable oil.
The National Industrial Standard prescribed the amount of Vitamin A which should be present in flour, sugar and vegetable oil, which was approved and signed into law in 2000.
â€œNutritional deficiency arising from mineral shortages put two billion people at risk all over the world. Those adversely affected are people in the lower socio-economic level in developing countries. Vitamin A deficiency can result in impaired vision and may lead to blindness. Many nations now have mineral fortification programmes,â€ he stated.
A National Fortification Alliance (NFA) was formed involving all the stakeholders in the food industry to anchor the Nigerian Food Fortification project.
He clarified a misleading information emanating from the recent National Fortification Alliance meeting in Abuja that two billion people had died as a result of Vitamin A deficiency around the world, which is not correct.
â€œTwo billion people are at risk all over the world for lack of nutrients and Federal Government did not get $200m grant for the food fortification programme but only $2.4m project is currently being executed in Nigeria by GAIN.
He said phase one of the project had been completed which as the baseline study to provide basis for phase 2.