By CHIOMA OBINNA
AS millions of people are losing their lives annually to Non Communicable Diseases, NCDs, food and nutrition experts in Nigeria have harped on healthful foods as a prerequisite for attainment of healthy nutrition.
This is coming on the heels of call to Nigerian food and beverage manufacturers to reformulate their productsf or better health.
At a sensitisation programme on “Heart Check Food LabellingProgramme” organised in collaboration with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, for manufacturers in Lagos, President, Board of Trustees, Nigerian Heart Foundation, NHF, Emeritus Professor Akinkugbe affirmed that healthy nutrition is an important part of a healthy life , hence, the need to provide education on heart- healthy foods.
“Food labelling across the world develops community awareness on healthy foods and provideopportunity for healthy food choices and the NHF Heart Check Food Labelling Programme is a systematic endorsement of food items certifying them healthy for consumption and heart friendly with emphasis on low fats and cholesterol, low sodium and low glucose.”
Akinkugbe decried the growing incidence of NCDs in the country, and said the programme targets shoppers concerned about their well – being to make on-the-spot healthy food choices.
In his lecture entitled: “Protect Your Heart, Check Food Labelling to Make Heart Food Friendly Choices”, Director General, NAFDAC, Dr Paul Orhii, called on all food manufacturing companies to come on board the NHF Heart Check Labelling programme through the proper protocol.
Orhii, represented by a Director in the Agency, Mrs. O.O Mainassara noted the role of healthy diets in prevention of and cardiovascular of diseases but regretted that Nigerian consumers do not read basic information on products.
“We are gradually getting manufacturers to start mandatory nutritional labelling with food industry and overall strategy is combat and promote healthy nutrition.
Food labelling provides basic information about a product. Starting from storage, expiry and manufacturing dates, ingredients, quantity of sodium, sugar, water, level of cholesterol, saturated or non saturated fats amongst others,” he added.
NHF Executive Director, Dr. Kingsley Akinroye who regretted that the burden of NCDs in developing countries said since 2005 when the Heart Check Food Labelling Programme was introduced only five manufacturing companies out of 300 in the country had signed on.
Akinroye noted that nutrition was central to the major NCDs ravaging the world today. He said the challenge has remained recruiting companies, and standardization of laboratories in the country.
Often, due to lack of internationally certified laboratories, results are often sent abroad for further checks and appealed to government to establish food labs of international standard that would enable all necessary checks about food products in Nigeria.