DSM to help digitize Nigerian fortified food transparency in NGO collaboration
11 Apr 2022 --- DSM has joined a coalition to help Nigerian food producers fortify foods at effective levels in a new pilot program.
The collaboration will oversee the development of a digitalized system in Nigeria that checks whether staple foods are fortified with the right levels of essential vitamins and minerals.
“Through this program, we ensure we build further trust for food fortification programs, which will create additional demand for fortified products,” Yannick Foing, global director, nutrition improvement at DSM, tells NutritionInsight.
“We also ensure higher compliance meaning than more people will have access to essential nutrients.”
The efforts are done in partnership with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, TechnoServe and other stakeholders, with aims to decrease hidden hunger in the world.
Fortification laws have been in place for over ten years in the country. However, when spot tested at the market level, certain foods were found to be inadequately fortified or not fortified at all.
Digitizing production and testing
The Nigerian food producers involved in the pilot will receive support from a team of experts to co-design and install the new digital quality assurance system.
DSM will leverage its digital and premix expertise to provide input into and support the development and implementation of the program, explains Foing.
This technology will utilize diagnostic tools from in-line sensors to monitor production flows to calibration aids and reporting software. These “state-of-the-art” tools are positioned to deliver both guaranteed quality and insights to improve the bottom line.
Digitization will also allow nutritional improvements to be assessed and monitored over time, which will play a significant role in reducing health risks. Moreover, DSM will “keep raising awareness” on the importance of quality fortification to ensure beneficiaries and consumers can access the nutrients they need, continues Foing.
While the onus to assess nutritional improvements falls upon Nigerian governmental authorities, GAIN, BMGF and other large organizations will work with them where support is needed, he adds.
A region with high deficiencies
Nigeria is one of many countries where citizens are not getting enough essential vitamins and minerals in their diets. Anemia is a significant challenge in the country.
In 2019, nearly 70% of Nigerian children suffered from anemia, which – according to research by the University of Istanbul – can cause permanent developmental setbacks, leading to reduced intelligence test scores and significantly impaired motor skills.
In adults, more than 50% of Nigerian women are anemic, making it an important risk factor in maternal deaths in a country that has the fourth highest maternal death rate in the world.
Pathways for nutrition
Food fortification – where key nutrients like iron, vitamin A and zinc are added to staple foods such as wheat flour, maize flour and oil – is one of the safest, most effective and affordable ways of addressing micronutrient gaps and tackling health conditions such as anemia on a global scale, according to DSM.
In Nigeria, edible oil is a staple food that provides energy and access to fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids that are crucial for optimal growth and development.
Olive, palm and sunflower oils can all be fortified with fat-soluble vitamins to increase their nutritional value and become rich sources of vitamins A, D and E.
These combined efforts from food manufacturers and producers, governments and NGOs can significantly impact the health of malnourished populations.
Moreover, such strategies have been shown to play an important role in increasing productivity and stimulating the growth of a country’s economy, highlights DSM.
“GAIN and BMGF are co-leading this initiative with multiple other partners involved,” says Foing.
“They’re looking at rolling it out slowly in a couple of countries in Asia and Africa, focusing on edible oil fortification. The plan is to expand it in the coming years to other staples if successful.”
Building on folic acid’s successes
As some of the most widely distributed consumer staple foods, wheat and maize flour are easily fortified with micronutrients like folic acid, meaning that there is a huge window of opportunity for flour products to support public health, notes DSM.
There are now 87 countries worldwide where it is mandatory to fortify at least one industrially milled cereal grain, such as maize or wheat.
Since mandating the addition of folic acid to wheat four in 1998, the US has seen neural tube defects in babies fall by 28%.
The UK has also recently taken mandatory fortification of folic acid on board in flour.
The big picture
These real-world improvements highlight the need for more countries to take similar steps to address micronutrient deficiencies.
The pilot program in Nigeria is one of DSM’s latest moves to “enable the micronutrient gap of 800 million vulnerable people to be closed,” a commitment the company made last year.
Last August, DSM also flagged that food fortification could help relieve hidden hunger in school feeding programs.
Edited by Missy Green
This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, NutritionInsight.
To contact our editorial team please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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