Local companies have complied with the food fortification programme introduced last year to prevent micro-nutrient deficiency disorders among consumers, a government consultant has said.
In an interview with NewsDay on the side lines of a food fortification workshop held in Bulawayo on Tuesday, Health and Child Care ministry nutrition advocacy and communication consultant Dexter Chagwena said a lot of companies were now complying with the food fortification regulations.
“A lot of companies are complying with fortification legislation. For instance, we have all the sugar manufacturing companies, mainly Hullets, Gold Star and Probands they have already complied and are fortifying,” Chagwena said.
“When it comes to oil producers, you realise that most of the oil producers are actually complying and here we are talking about industries such as Pure Oil, Olivine and also United Refineries. These are some of the companies that I would say are already complying at the moment.”
Chagwena said so far, the Grain Marketing Board, Blue Ribbon, Uni Products and Parogate had complied, while National Foods was in the process of complying.
The workshop was organised by the Ministry of Health and Child Care supported by the World Food Programme to discuss the benefits of food fortification.
Last year, government endorsed a mandatory food fortification programme in which certain vitamins and minerals should be added to maize meal, sugar, cooking oil and wheat flour, in order to minimise cases of malnutrition and mineral deficiencies.
However, Chagwena said some millers were yet to comply.
“After we started mandatory fortification last year, the millers through their association, raised challenges such as access to foreign currency and even equipment and foreign currency to purchase the fortificants,” Chagwena said.
When the mandatory food fortification programme was promulgated by Statutory Instrument 120 of 2016, which went into effect on June 1, 2017 the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) resisted the programme.
GMAZ responded to the legislation by writing to Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa back in August 2017.
In the letter, millers said that there would be a need for foreign currency to import the nutrients for the programme, a move that would result in them joining the long list of forex applicants that could take 24 months.
But, Chagwena said they were working on the issue.
“We have worked with other ministries like the Finance and Economic Development ministry to try by all means to advocate for release of foreign currency or prioritising food fortification equipment and fortificants as well,” he said.
He added that millers were still having challenges with the fortification programme.
Food fortification is one of many ways to prevent and control micronutrient deficiency diseases such as goitre, anaemia, impaired vision and mental retardation.
In 2015, Zimbabwe launched the Zimbabwe National Food Fortification Strategy 2014 to 2018 to address the micronutrient deficiency burden in the country as revealed by the 2012 Zimbabwe Micronutrient Survey.
According to the survey, 19% of children aged between 6-59 months are vitamin A deficient, while 72% have iron deficiency, and 31% are anaemic, and nearly 1,5 million working age adults with anaemia suffer deficits in work performance.