The Sunday News
Wilson Dakwa, Sunday News Reporter
MILLERS and food processors that will fail to comply with mandatory food fortification for maize meal, sugar, cooking oil and wheat flour will have their licences cancelled, the Government has warned.
The warning comes at a time when the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has said its members were not yet ready to comply with the Government’s fortification regulations which will come into effect on 1 July.
According to the Government regulations, sugar will be fortified with vitamin A, cooking oil with vitamin A and D; and wheat flour and maize meal with vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, iron and zinc.
In an interview, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said all manufacturers of food products which were selected for fortification were required to comply or risk having their operational licenses cancelled for failing to do so.
He, however, said most companies had approved to the Food Fortification policy and further stated that only Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) would be granted a waiver.
“Most companies have agreed to the Food Fortification programme. However, it is only the SMEs who are unable to comply and have applied for waivers because they are still growing. We are not agreeing to the waiver indefinitely, we expect them to comply with the Food Fortification programme after their waivers expire. Our priority is to protect and safe guard our children, GMAZ members will not be granted a waiver because they can afford to implement the fortification on 1 July,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
He said it has to be noted that the Government come up with the Food Fortification policy to protect the nation’s children from malnutrition due to lack of Vitamin A and C and to increase iron which is highly needed by pregnant women.
Food fortification is the process of adding minute levels of vitamins and minerals to foods during processing. It entails addition of one or more micronutrients during processing regardless of whether the micronutrient is present or not in the said food to increase micronutrient intake in a population. It is one of many ways to prevent and control micronutrient deficiency diseases like goitre, anaemia, impaired vision and mental retardation.
However, GMAZ southern region chairman Mr Thembinkosi Ndlovu said the Government expedited the implementation of the Food Fortification Regulations Statutory Instrument 120 (Fortified Food Regulations) of 2016 without widely consulting relative stakeholders. He said the Government should have embarked on nationwide awareness campaigns on the programme before its implementation.
“We feel the Government didn’t use the appropriate channels in introducing this law because as it stands consumers will be subjected to consuming food they are not familiar with and business might suffer due to boycotts as some people are likely to resist purchasing such products,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He said fortification was also likely to increase cost of doing business. The country adopted food fortification since 1994, when mandatory salt iodations was introduced as a measure to eradicate iodine deficiency disorders including goitre.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care further developed the Zimbabwe National Food Fortification Strategy in 2013 as a prevention and control measure to address micronutrient deficiencies after realising that a typical diet in Zimbabwe is deeply deficient in required vitamins and minerals. The strategy serves as a guiding mechanism for the programme and establishes a comprehensive, harmonised national plan to effectively reduce micronutrient deficiencies.
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 aged six to 59 months were vitamin A deficient, 32 percent of children aged six to 59 months were anaemic while 72 percent were iron deficient. About 24 percent of women of child-bearing age (15 to 49 years) were vitamin A deficient and nine percent had night blindness, while 26 percent of child bearing age were anaemic and 62 percent were iron deficient according to NMS.