By Audrey Lotechukwu
MON, 21 DEC, 2020-theGBJournal- An international nonprofit organization, TechnoServe, has designed an innovative new tool, the Micronutrient Fortification Index (MFI), a self- regulatory system to incentivize food processors to meet government standards for fortifying their products with essential vitamins and minerals.
The innovation comes as Nigeria grapples with increasing food insecurity and the highest malnutrition burden in Africa. The MFI is expected to help in improving the population’s nutrition through increased food fortification.
It is billed as an industry-led and-owned self-assessment tool that allows companies to evaluate existing procedures and practices against national and global fortification standards.
With the MFI, companies will be scored against a set of criteria with a focus on personnel, production, public engagement, procurement and partnership, as well as governance. The MFI will also source feedback from stakeholders including consumers and sector experts to validate scores, while coordinating independent testing of brands to validate results. This exercise culminates in the final output of a ranked list of participating companies.
The process to develop the MFI was triggered by an industry request made during the inaugural Nigerian Food Processing and Nutrition Leadership Forum in June 2018 to conceptualize a cost-effective strategy that provides commercial incentives for processors to comply with established national standards. Participating in the MFI contributes to efforts aimed at establishing a level playing field for compliant and non-compliant processors.
‘’The index’s ultimate objective is to provide a quality mark for an increasingly discerning consumer base,’’ TechnoServe said.
At the recently concluded Third Annual Food Processing and Nutritional Leadership Forum, convened virtually by Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Mr. Bill Gates, keynote speaker Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo said “The Micronutrient Fortification Index (MFI) is an interesting innovation that will motivate industries to self-regulate in meeting government standards for food fortification. The use of this tool should be adopted by all companies involved in fortification and I believe it should be made available to stakeholders and shareholders alike. We should be able to hold them accountable as they strive to meet industry benchmarks, including compliance with Nigerian Fortification Standards. Government regulatory agencies will definitely find the tool useful in support of industry regulation efforts and consumer expectations.”
So far, twelve processors, including Flour Mills of Nigeria plc, PZ Wilmar Limited, Olam (which now encompasses Dangote Flour Mills) and Honeywell Flour Mills Plc, have signed up to the index, with keen interest from other participants to join the process in 2021 when the index will scale up to capture all players operating in the wheat flour, sugar, salt, and edible oil sectors.
According to TechnoServe, ‘’the MFI will continue to work to drive increased participation, refining the tool to accommodate smaller processors, especially those seeking to grow and scale, as well as inputting feedback from the existing set of participants.’’
In addition to signing more processors, the MFI will implement an integral strategy to increase consumer awareness about the importance of food fortification and industry compliance as well as deepen partnerships with government and regulatory bodies.