By Daniel Chigundu
ZIMBABWE is set to start mandatory food fortification for maize meal, sugar, cooking oil and wheat flour with effect from July 1, 2017, government has announced.
Food fortification is a process where vitamins and minerals are added to food during processing and this is done to provide people with adequate vitamins and minerals to prevent various nutrient deficiency diseases.
The country adopted food fortification since 1994, when mandatory salt iodations was introduced as a measure to eradicate iodine deficiency disorder including goiter.
In a statement, Ministry of Health and Child Care said the decision was arrived at after realising that typical diet in Zimbabwe is deeply deficient in required vitamins and minerals.
“The Zimbabwe National Food Fortification Strategy is an immediate measure that the Ministry of Health and Child Care has adopted as prevention and control measure to address micronutrient deficiencies.
The strategy serves as a guiding mechanism for the program and establishes a comprehensive, harmonised national plan to effectively reduce micronutrient deficiencies.
“The Food Fortification Strategy was developed in 2013 following a situation analysis which showed that the typical diet in Zimbabwe is deeply deficient in vitamins and minerals required to promote health, development and survival,” read the statement.
According to the National Micronutrient Survey (NMS) 2012, women and children are deficient of major micronutrients which are necessary for growth and development.
The NMS says 21 percent of children ages 6 to 59 months were vitamin A deficient, 32 percent of children aged 6 to59 months were anaemic while 72 percent were iron deficient.
About 24 percent of woman of child-bearing age (15 to 49 years) were vitamin A deficient and 9 percent had night blindness, while 26 percent of child bearing age were anaemic and 62 percent were iron deficient according to NMS.
Government said addressing these challenges takes a comprehensive approach that would encompass even the most vulnerable population in the country.
“Addressing this widespread burden requires a comprehensive approach, including both targeted interventions to reach the most vulnerable as well as population wide approaches to address the broad population-wide scale of the micronutrient threat.
“The Food Fortification Strategy serves as the strategic guidance for all sectors in the realisation of the government of Zimbabwe’s vision for a population with optimal nutritional status,” said the Health Ministry.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has development the Food Fortification Regulations Statutory Instrument 120 (Fortified Food Regulations) of 2016 that contains the standards for vegetable oils, sugar, wheat flour and maize meal.
The regulations and standards are also contained in the Public Health Act.
Government said it will be embarking on nationwide awareness campaigns on the program.
“As we approach 1 July 2017, the date for mandatory fortification for selected food items the MoHCC with various stakeholders and partners will conduct nationwide public education and awareness campaigns on food fortification through road-shows, TV and radio programs.
“The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of all people on this national program and people will have an opportunity to ask questions and get answers,” the ministry added.-