As Nigeria grapples with increasing food insecurity and the highest malnutrition burden in Africa, a new innovation to improve nutrition and public-health outcomes through increased food fortification, highlights the important role of self-regulation. The Micronutrient Fortification Index (MFI), set to launch publicly in September 2021, is an industry-owned initiative to generate data and publicly share rankings of companies’ progress on fortifying their products with essential vitamins and minerals.
This self-regulatory system will incentivize food processors to meet government standards, inform corrective action, and ultimately deliver better nutrition for Nigerians.
The prevalence of various forms of malnutrition—stunting, protein deficiency, wasting, and other vitamin and mineral deficiencies—in Nigeria is high. An estimated 361,000 Nigerian children die annually from malnutrition and other related diseases; every day, the country loses about 2,300 children below 5 years of age and 145 women of childbearing age.
With an estimated 105 million Nigerians living below the poverty line, many households do not have access to the varied selection of nutritious foods that ordinarily constitute a balanced diet, relying instead primarily on grain and tuber foods that are often lacking in essential nutrients.
In 2002, the Nigerian government mandated the fortification of main staple foods, including flour, oil, maize, semolina and sugar. Despite this, figures from the National Demographic Health Survey conducted in 2018 show that Nigeria is lagging behind compared to its peers, with an unacceptable proportion of its population malnourished or undernourished. While regulatory compliance levels have varied with each staple food carrier, for a variety of reasons they have generally tended to be significantly below the legal requirements. Vanguard