By Chioma Umeha
The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has called for expansion and sustenance of food fortification programme in Nigeria.
According to the agency, this call becomes imperative considering the devastating effects of malnutrition and poor dietary intake in the country. Mrs Yetunde Oni, the acting Director General of NAFDAC, made the call during a National Fortification Alliance (NFA) meeting in Lagos, recently.
Speaking at the occasion, Oni noted that out of about 21 widely known micronutrients, five of them – vitamin A, Iron, Iodine, Zinc and folic acid – are of public health significance.
The NAFDAC boss said that they contribute significantly to good health and are necessary for proper growth and development of the body and for human survival.
According to her, infants, young children, teenagers, pregnant and breast feeding mothers are prone to malnutrition hence require additional nutrients all the time.
She emphasised that one in four children under the age of five suffers from vitamin A deficiency and that 31 per cent of mothers in Nigeria are iodine deficient.
She further said available statistics show that nutrition contributes to over 50 per cent child mortality in Nigeria. These statistics, she noted, make it unimaginable to question the importance of micronutrients to achieving the socio economic development of any country and attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Oni said that in order to meet UN’s set targets, NAFDAC developed the Vitamin A Food Fortification Regulations in 2005.
The acting NAFDAC boss said that among other contents, the regulations address issues ranging from 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.
The NAFDAC DG also said that the regulations address control of advertisement of vitamin A fortified foods – to be censored and given permit before use.
Others are: Labelling requirements for vitamin A fortified foods; Logo on all packaged Vitamin A fortified food-an eye with letter ‘’A’’ inside it; packaging specifications and interpretations.
Also, regulations also covers penalty for non-compliance, which includes administrative fines and prosecution legislators without penalty for violations, will be futile.
She acknowledged that the support of international organizations and relevant development partners such as Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Micronutrient Initiative (MI), Nigeria has attained remarkable success in addressing micronutrient deficiency problems.
These successes include: Certification of Nigeria as Universal Salt Iodization (USI) compliant in November/December 2005 and celebrated in Istanbul, Turkey, on April 17, 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.
Others are: Upgrading of a laboratory for Reference Standards at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan. This serves as Iodine Laboratory for Nigeria.
The next is institution of functional Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD)/ USI Taskforce.
While pledging NAFDAC’s support towards the success of the National Fortification Alliance Programme, Mrs Oni tasks stakeholders to be committed to the mandate of the NFA.