IN a bid to reduce cases of micronutrient deficiency, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has warned Nigerians against buying fortified foods improperly stored in markets, especially those exposed directly to sunlight.
NAFDAC Chief Regulatory Officer in Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Directorate, Mrs. Benedicta Obaseki, who gave the advice on Thursday during the agency ‘s post-market surveillance on the quality of vitamin A fortification in fortified foods at Ojunwoye Market, Mushin, Lagos, explained that direct sunlight deletes vitamins in fortified foods.
Obaseki explained that the post-market surveillance, which was witnessed by the media, was meant to randomly ascertain the similitude and consistency of Vitamin A in fortified foods at industry level and those sold at various markets.
As part of the exercise, the agency’s staff went round the market with mobile machines to sample Vitamin A fortified foodstuffs, especially vegetable oil and sugar sold at the market.
The exercise became a centre of attraction at the market as some traders momentarily abandoned their businesses to witness the random exercise in the market.
Food Fortification Programme is an intervention to enhance the quality of readily available and more affordable foods nutritionally by addition of some vital minerals and vitamins required by the body. Although these minerals and vitamins are required in minute quantities, their absence in the body can cause severe Micronutrient Deficiency Diseases (MDD).
Available evidence showed that Nigeria has one of the highest rates of child and maternal mortality in the world with Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) being a major contributory factor. Micronutrient malnutrition, also known as hidden hunger, has become a major devastating nutritional problem affecting the health of children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
Major Micronutrient Deficiency Disorders include Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD), Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) and Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA).
Obaseki advised Nigerians to buyonly fortified foods.
“The public should always look out for NAFDAC registration number , because before a product is registered with NAFDAC, it must be fortified . We cannot allow the producer of these food vehicles to produce without fortifying them. In looking at NAFDAC registration number, when the product is registered with NAFDAC, you will see an eye logo with an A, which is a symbol of fortification. You have to look at the expiration date to know whether the product is expiring or is still in tact.
Sun And Food Products
“We are advising traders to store these products away from direct sunlight. Some of them that store them under shed are protecting these products from the sun. Our advise is that traders should not leave their products under the sun, because sun affects the quantity of f vitamin A in these food products.
“We have gone to some factories in Lagos . Our report so far shows that some of the companies are fortifying according to standards, while some are not doing it up to standards. The reason we are here is that we want to ascertain the level of compliance of these manufacturers of wheat, flour, vegetable and sugar. That is why we are auditing their factories ; we have gone to their factories to audit their processes to see where the problem is coming from .
“Even we go to the fortification line to see whether they are dosing properly, whether they are buying the right vitamin premix, which they are using to fortify their products. We have analysed some reports . Some are meeting up but some are not meeting up to standard.
“We are here in the market to check the products to see whether the quality of vitamin A we inspected in the factory is the same with the ones in the market, because we know that handily is another issue on the quality of vitamin A. We want to ascertain the quantity of vitamin A in the market, so that we will be able to advise them on how to store these products rightly.
Benefits Of Vitamin A To The Body
“The major objectives of this food fortification is to reduce the prevalence of micro-nutrient deficiency among the most vulnerable and at risk population by 20 per cent. This can be achieved through compliance by the industry to produce fortified foods and consumers who consume these products. Micro-nutrient deficiency is still a huge problem in Nigeria despite the enormous consequence for economic growth and human development. These nutritional problems are hidden and silent. The warning are signs are not often recognised, and the victim is not aware of the problem until the victim starts suffering from health problem, arising from micronutrient deficiency.
“That is why we call it the hidden hunger, because the symptoms are not known . One out of four children under the age of five suffers from vitamin A deficiency. About 31 per cent of our mothers are iodine deficient . Moreso, the correlation between suffering, death and malnutrition is real. A child dying as a result of a common childhood illness is a casualty of vitamin A deficiency.
“A child that is away from school as a result of poor learning ability is suffering because he lacks iodine. A child may emaciate from diarrhoea because he is not well breastfed. What of our young ones who die after childbirth because of anaemia? With these facts, it is unimaginable to question or doubt the importance of vitamin A to achieving socio-economic of any country,” Obaseki said.