The Federal Government and Africa’s richest man Alhaji Aliko Dangote have pledged to combat malnutrition by fortifying staple foods with micronutrients, critical for improving health and nutrition.
They made the pledge in Lagos following the emergence of data which showed that Nigerian firms have attained 75 per cent fortified food compliance, up from the 50 per cent rate of 2018.
The data was presented by a non-governmental organization, TechnoServe, at the 2nd Annual Nigeria Food Processing and Leadership Forum which held on Monday night.
The meeting, chaired by Alhaji Aliko Dangote with American billionaire Bill Gates participating by video conference, convened the CEOs of Nigeria’s leading food processing companies alongside government and international development leaders.
They reviewed 18 months of progress since the inaugural forum in July 2018.
The event was co-hosted by Technoserve in collaboration with the Aliko Dangote Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Nigerian Industrial Policy and Competitive Council.
Dangote, Health Minister Dr. Osagie Ehanire; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Niyi Adebayo and other stakeholders pledged to achieve 90 percent compliance on food fortification by 2020.
They said this was part of efforts to address the high rate of malnutrition in the country.
According to Dangote the country’s fortified food compliance rate was 50 per cent in 2018 but has now improved to 75 per cent.
He added: “The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration of Nigeria (NAFDAC) should not only focus on the big players in the food business, but they should also go after small players as well. That way, we will meet the 90 percent target.
“On our part as a company, we have ensured Dangote Rice is fortified. Dr Ehanire, on his part, said fortification of food will play a role in addressing malnutrition in the country, adding that children and adults with lack of micronutrients can get them back with fortified foods.
He said: “We encourage fresh foods like vegetables, fruits, and the likes, but for persons who do not take these, fortified foods offer broad nutrients needed. You can imagine what happens when the body lacks iron, iodine, calcium and the like.”
Adebayo pledged that the government will ensure that the compliance target of 90 per cent by 2020 was met.
“The private sector is also very committed to meeting this target,” he added.
NAFDAC Director-General, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye said the agency’s enforcement team was ensuring every food production player in the country complies with the standard.
“If samples fail, we do not approve. So, everyone is pushing to meet the target,” she added.