With mounting nutritional challenges facing millions of Nigerians, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, private sector operators in the food processing industries, as well as government regulating agencies, have pledged commitment towards achieving optimal levels in food fortification compliance.

This is even as Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc won an award, having been ranked as the leading company with significant strides in institutionalising large-scale food fortification best practices.

The pledge was made at the 4th yearly CEO Forum of Food Processing & Nutrition Leadership themed ‘Ensuring Improved Health and Nutrition Through Cross-Sectoral Leadership’ organised collaboratively by TechnoServe; Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Lagos.

President of Dangote Group and Chairman of the ADF, Aliko Dangote, who chaired the meeting, said food fortification is a health issue that members of the Forum are committed to complying with each of the foods their organisations manufacture in the interest of nutritional health of Nigerians.

He recalled how the Forum has proposed to be converging periodically to assess compliance and expressed happiness that the report for 2022 was an improvement on the previous report.

He also urged members of the Forum to double their efforts to shore up compliance in the area where it is still below expectation.

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He assured that there was no going back in achieving full micronutrient fortification compliance, especially in the pandemic era, to mitigate the effect of the virus.

In his remarks, Mr. Bill Gates commended the efforts of the Nigerian private sector involved in the food fortification process and the affected government agencies for rising up to the occasion to ensure that fortification compliance is achieved so that Nigerians could be immune against malnutrition.

He said his Foundation was happy to be involved in the task and urged all not to rest on their oars until full fortification compliance is achieved.

Giving the report of milestones and compliance trends covered by the Forum in 2021, Dominic Schofield of TechnoServe listed 14 companies covering 31 brands as having joined the Micronutrient Fortification Index (MFI) ranking for Wheat Flour, Edible Oil, Sugar and Salt.

Dangote Sugar was named among the four companies with substantial compliance in the four food categories, with others being Flour Mills, awarded in two categories and Raffles Oil LFTZ Enterprise.

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The essence of the MFI ranking, Schofield explained, is that members of the public would have access to information about the fortification of the four staple foods and help encourage companies to meet their fortification targets.

He stated, “The recent implementation of pandemic-related border controls has enabled industrially-processed edible oil producers, adequately fortifying, to capture an increased market share and ensure wider consumer reach.

“The wheat flour sector demonstrably attempted to sustain compliance levels over the last year. Disrupted access to good quality Vitamin A, however, continues to pose a risk to good performance.

“With the promise of renewed focus; with opportunities to innovate in business processes and digitalization that better integrate food fortification and foster trust, and with the commitment and collective action on the part of all food fortification stakeholders, Nigerian processors can get back to the levels of optimal compliance achieved prior to the pandemic.”

In his remark, Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who joined the meeting virtually from Abuja, expressed the appreciation of the Federal Government to the Forum, especially the sponsors, for sustaining the food fortification efforts in the overall interest of Nigerians.