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FG calls for rice fortification as GAIN, Gates Foundation launch new digital strategy

FG calls for rice fortification as GAIN, Gates Foundation launch new digital strategy
March 16
00:32 2022

The Federal Government says it has included rice on the list of foods that must be fortified with micronutrients to reduce the rate of malnutrition in Nigeria.

The fortification of wheat flour, maize flour, vegetable oil, margarine, salt, and sugar has been mandatory in Nigeria for over 10 years, and now the federal government has said it is adding rice to the mix.

This was revealed in Lagos on Monday during the launch of the Large-Scale Food Fortification (LSFF) strategy led by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

John Uruakpa, head of the MicroNutrition Deficiency Unit at the Federal Ministry of Health, disclosed this while stating that food fortification aims to deliver better health care for millions of Nigerians, especially children


Food fortification is the practice of adding vitamins and minerals to commonly consumed foods during processing to increase their nutritional value.

Uruakpa said that rice fortification would improve the nutritional quality derived from the staple food and provide a public health benefit with minimal health risk.

According to him, food fortification is a proven, cost-effective, sustainable, and scalable intervention that will ensure access to micronutrients that are necessary for a healthy and functional body.


He said that the government would continue to create the enabling environment that would encourage partners to expand their food fortification efforts in Nigeria.

Andreas Bluethner, director of nutrition at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), said it has been challenging ensuring that the micronutrient content of the foods meets Nigeria’s national standards.

“Foods have often been found to be inadequately fortified or even unfortified when spot-tested at the market level,” he said.

“This has slowed the contributions of food fortification to fighting Nigeria’s high levels of micronutrient deficiencies, which include life-threatening deficiencies in iron, vitamin A, zinc, folic acid, and iodine.”


He said that the country’s severe health challenges in anemia were driven by insufficient iron in the diet, while widespread vitamin A deficiency suppresses the immune system, thus exacerbating disease levels.

According to Bluethner, the federal government and international partners are working with fortified food producers on digital solutions to secure nutrients in foods to improve health, resilience, and productivity.

He said that Nigeria was the first country to implement the digital solution for the nutritional quality of staple foods.

Bluethner said the digitised system would ensure staple foods are fortified with the right levels of essential vitamins and minerals to support good health and nutrition.


“The foundation is investing in food fortification markets to provide quality nutritious foods that are affordable for all consumers. Digital innovation will allow nutritional improvements to be assessed and maintained over time,” he added.

He said that partners involved in the initiative included are Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), TechnoServe, BASF, Bioanalyt, Camelot Consulting Group, DSM, GH Labs, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.


Michael Ojo, country director at GAIN Nigeria, said that the digital revolution presented fortified food producers in the country opportunities to prevent fortification shortfalls while increasing the efficiency and profitability of their businesses.

“We anticipate this system will allow companies to assure every customer that the nutrient content of their product is guaranteed, reducing health risks and offering a direct path to longer and healthier lives,” he said.


Ojo said that the four-year pilot project implemented by GAIN was part of the company’s global commitment to supporting staple food fortification and ensuring better nutrition for all.



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