Worried about the epidemic of malnutrition among Nigerian children, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, yesterday called for expansion of the country’s food fortification programme considering the devastating effect of malnutrition and poor dietary intake among Nigerians.
Making the call in Lagos, the Acting Director – General of the Agency, Mrs. Yetunde Oni explained that out of about 21 widely known micronutrients, including vitamin A, Iron, Iodine, Zinc and folic acid, five of them are of public health significance.
Oni who spoke during the National Fortification Alliance, NFA, meeting in Lagos said these micronutrients contribute significantly to good health and are necessary for proper growth and development of the body for survival.
According to her, infants, young children, teenagers, pregnant and breast feeding mothers are prone to becoming malnourished and as such require additional nutrients all the time.
She emphasised that one in four children under the age of five suffers from vitamin A deficiency, 31 percent of mothers in Nigeria are iodine deficient.
“Available statistics show that nutrition contributes to over 50 percent child mortality in Nigeria. These statistics make it unimaginable to question the importance of micronutrients to achieving the socio economic development of any country and attaining the Sustainable Development Goals,”
Oni said that in order to meet set UN targets, NAFDAC developed the Vitamin A Food Fortification Regulations, 2005. She added that amongst other contents, the regulation is addressing the prohibition of manufacture, importation, exportation, advertisement, distribution and sale of any designated food vehicle that is not fortified with vitamin A and other elements as prescribed and Control of advertisement of vitamin A fortified foods -to be censored and given permit before use.
Others are labelling requirement for vitamin A fortified foods, logo on all packaged vitamin A fortified food-an eye with letter ‘’A’’ inside it, Packaging specifications and penalty for non-compliance, which includes administrative fines and prosecution legislators without penalty for violations, will be futile.
Acknowledging the support of International organisations and relevant development partners such as Global Alliance for Improved Nutrtion (GAIN), United Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Micronutrient Initiative (MI), she said Nigeria has attained remarkable success in addressing micronutrient deficiency problems.
These successes she listed include: Certification of Nigeria as Universal Salt Iodization (USI) compliant in November/December 2005 and celebrated in Istanbul, Turkey, on 17th April 2007. Packaging of table salt in smaller pack sizes of 1Kg, 500g,250g and 100g, identification and procurement of iodine test kits for rapid quality monitoring and upgrading of a laboratory for Reference Standards at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan as Iodine Laboratory for Nigeria.
Oni further tasked stakeholders to be committed to the mandate of the National Fortification Alliance.