By Ndey Sowe
Abdul Aziz Cessay, the National Alliance for Food Fortification (NAFF) Coordinator, on Wednesday, 29 of December, 2021 disclosed that they are piloting the rice fortification for consumers in The Gambia.
“The NAFF have achieve some food fortifications in the Gambia; fortification of salt, flour and we are piloting the rice fortification with the help of World Food Programme (WFP) office in the Gambia,” he stated in a quarterly meeting held since the establishment of the NAFF on Wednesday at a local hotel in Kotu.
According to officials, this is the last meeting of the year. The project, which is an EU-FAO funded project, has been running from 2017 and is expected to end in February 2022.
It is also aimed at addressing micro-nutrient deficiencies in the Gambia which mostly affects women of child bearing age and children under five. The target food vehicles are wide-flour, edible fats and oil, and the iodization of salt.
Food fortification is defined as the practice of adding vitamins and minerals to commonly consumed foods during processing to increase their nutritional value. It is a proven, safe and cost-effective strategy for improving diets, and for the prevention and control of micronutrient deficiencies. Food fortification or enrichment is the process of adding micronutrients to food. It can be carried out by food manufacturers, or by governments as a public health policy which aims to reduce the number of people with dietary deficiencies within a population.
The Food Safety and Quality Authority (FSQA) of the Gambia on Wednesday, 7 July, 2021 launched the country’s Food Fortification Regulations 2020.
The Food Fortification Regulations, 2020 is developed to serve as a regulatory tool for compliance and enforcement on edible fats and oil, wheat flour and food grade salt. It will also regulate what is imported and locally produced for the country’s markets.
The launching, presided over by Vice President Dr. Isatou Touray, was part of the European Union four-year project themed “Improving Food Security and Nutrition in the Gambia through Food Fortification.”
Mr. Cessay, who also doubles as the Programme Manager at the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA), said the NAFF is a national platform set up by the Food Fortification and Bio fortification project.
He added that it is also a platform where the government and the private sector will benefit from, saying it will bring together public and private partnership as far as food fortification is concerned, to discuss policy issues regarding food security and nutrition as well as food fortification in the Gambia.
Ceesay described the project as an important one, as they will discuss some of the important issues to improve on the nutritional and health status of people in the country. He stated that research has shown that there is a high level of mal-nutrition and micro- deficiency in the Gambia. In this respect, he said the Gambia did not reach the level to bring the mal-nutrition down.
“As the national nutrition agency, we want to bring the mal-nutrition now and also address micro-nutrient deficiency. Having the NAFF is very important because it will address the micro-nutrient deficiency,” he said. “We were able to build the capacity of the laboratories in this country by buying them some equipment and also NARI.”
Ceesay said regulations are in place for food fortification thanks to the food and bio-fortification project. He said it is a project that really helps the country to develop standard or quality oil, flour, salt as well as rice. He therefore urged the private sector (who are selling or fortifying the food vehicles) to take ownership of the project as they play a critical role as far as food fortification is concerned.
Halimatou Bah, National Nutrition Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), disclosed that the project will support the implementation of the work plan.
“Food fortification is one of the most cost-effective strategies in addressing micro-nutrient deficiencies because we are targeting foods that are usually consumed by the population, fortifying them with micro-nutrients,” she said.
“We expect by the end of the project we would address micro-nutrient deficiencies such as iron deficiency, anemia, iodine disorders, and vitamin A deficiencies. We are expecting to have a sustainability plan because the project is already facing out, so we would expect to have a plan in place for sustainability of the gains that are already registered.”
She implored the private sector to have interest in the fortification programme because they are key players in the whole initiative.
Malang N. Fofana, Deputy Executive Director NaNA, said the NAFF is an important platform for food fortification in The Gambia, and encouraged all the members of the NAFF to ensure the NAFF will not die after the project.
“We have to sacrifice and show commitments to make sure NAFF survives and plays its role in fortification in the Gambia,” he urged.