Elita Chikwati Harare Bureau
THE Government is in the process of drafting a statutory instrument making it mandatory for industry to fortify (add nutrients to) food during manufacturing and processing to curb malnutrition, a senior official has said.
This comes as the agriculture industry has developed high nutrient crop varieties, also called bio-fortified crops, that include vitamin A maize and iron and zinc beans.
The Department of Research Specialist Services in the Ministry of Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development in collaboration with International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), and International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) came up with high nutrient crops which are now available on the market.
Launching the marketing and distribution of the fortified crops for the 2016/2017 farming season at Stapleford in Harare yesterday, Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr David Parirenyatwa said the Government launched a National Food Fortification Strategy to prevent and control micro nutrient deficiency disorders among people.
Micro nutrient deficiency is prevalent in women and children under five years, especially in rural areas.
He said vitamin A deficient children under the age of five face a higher risk of death before their fifth birthday while anemia due to iron deficiency among pregnant women contributed to high rates of prematurity, low birth weight and infant mortality.
Cooking oil, wheat flour, maize meal and sugar will be put under compulsory fortification as the products reach up to 90 percent of the population.
“Addressing the widespread of malnutrition in Zimbabwe requires a comprehensive approach. Potential interventions include micro-nutrient supplementation, industrial food fortification, bio fortification; dietary diversification coupled with nutrition education and synergistic public health interventions such as control of intestinal parasites.
“National fortification standards have been developed and a statutory instrument to mandate fortification is being drafted. Technical officers in the ministry are in discussions with the industry to support them initiate fortification of these vehicles and you may already have seen some products indicating that these foods are fortified,” he said.
Dr Parirenyatwa said an assessment on the development of the strategy revealed that while consumption of maize was high in Zimbabwe, less than 40 percent of consumers relied on the market for accessing it.
He said the larger proportion, especially in rural areas, rely on own production or buying from other farmers.
“It is for this reason that in addition to industrial fortification other fortification technologies will be employed and promoted to ensure maximum reach of all people in a sustainable way. These will include promotion of production and consumption of high nutrient crop varieties particularly maize, beans and orange fleshed sweet potatoes,” he said.
Dr Parirenyatwa commended the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Food for Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and seed companies for coming up with the technology of producing high nutrient crops. He said there is a need to invest in the marketing and nutrition behaviour change communication to raise awareness on the magnitude of the problem of micronutrient deficiencies in the country and its consequences on the health and development of the nation.
Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said his ministry is concerned about the impact of production on the quantity, quality and nutritive value of food.
In a speech read on his behalf by Department of Research and Specialist Services principal director Dr Danisile Hikwa, Dr Made said his ministry collaborated with other partners and institutions nationally, regionally and internationally.
“The bio fortification of crops is a component of the DFID funded Livelihood and Food security Programme aimed at promoting production and consumption of biologically fortified crop varieties and in this case vitamin A and beans with iron and zinc.
“The Crop Breeding Institute has continued to partner the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and CIAT to develop, test and register maize and bean varieties with high vitamins and mineral content.
“The biological fortification process of developing nutrient dense varieties has been done using conventional breeding methods of germplasm selection. Zimbabwe has now fortified crop varieties.