NIGERIA – Globally, more than 2 billion individuals or one in three people, are afflicted by micronutrient malnutrition, according to statistics by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, with the World Health Organization further highlighting that 45% of child deaths globally are attributed to under-nutrition.
One of the ways that has been formulated to address the menace is Food Fortification- a cost effective and complementary strategy that has helped to virtually eliminate many nutrition disorders in the world.
TechchnoServe, an international non-profit organization has introduced a new platform to help food processors track and improve fortification, marking important progress in fighting malnutrition.
The Micronutrient Fortification Index (MFI), which was launched in Lagos, Nigeria is the first-ever platform that allows food processing companies to publicly report and track levels of staple food fortification.
In addition to providing other quality system metrics, the platform provides a transparent way to measure and incentivize industry-wide progress on fortification.
“We believe this tool should be adopted by all companies involved in fortification, and I believe it should be made available to stakeholders and shareholders alike,” said Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of Nigeria.
MFI was developed by TechnoServe as part of its Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve food processors’ fortification of staple foods in Nigeria, Kenya, and Tanzania.
“This index is about partnerships, it’s about transparency, it’s about accountability. It’s about being intentional in leveraging innovations for better progress in the Nigerian fortification ecosystem,” said Victor Ajieroh, Senior Program Officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “
In a bid to bring to life the concept, TechnoServe embarked on cross-sectoral feedback from key decision makers within both the public and private sectors and included targeted advocacy and communications strategies to raise awareness of fortification as a solution to challenges on the ground.
“We were clear in our minds that for food fortification programs to thrive, we have to put the food industry in the center of the conversation.
“After all, they produce the food. We know that they care about their consumers…They want to be accountable…But they want a level playing field for fair competition to happen. A business case for food fortification was needed to get them on board,” explained TechnoServe’s West Africa Regional Director Larry Umunna.
The resulting MFI is a self-regulatory platform that verifies a company’s fortification compliance through: a self-evaluation tool; a verification process conducted by an independent expert group; and product quality testing.
So far, thirteen Nigerian food companies representing 18 brands have completed the MFI’s self-assessment and have been included in the fortification rankings.
The MFI will post an annual ranking of companies based on their compliance levels, freely available online to everyone, from other food companies to government institutions to consumers.
“The launching of this index will help a lot in developing our own internal controls and systems, and ensuring that the whole process will be more structured – and that the whole system will work towards assuring the goal of [improved fortification],” said Ravindra Singhvi, managing director of Dangote Sugar.
TechnoServe’s SAPFF Director Dominic Schofield reiterated saying, “This allows companies to use the MFI both as an internal continuous improvement tool as well as an outward-facing product brand ranking that harnesses the competitive nature of companies that are racing for food fortification excellence, while striving for market dominance.”
And this transparency will also assist government regulators, who invest significant time and energy in monitoring companies’ fortification compliance.