The Vice President of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Humphrey Ayim Darke has urged the government to pass legislation requiring food processing and beverage firms to fortify their products.
According to him, this will help address micronutrient deficiencies among reproductive women in the countries. Globally, around two billion people – almost one third of the global population – suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, or ‘hidden hunger’. Micronutrient deficiencies of particular concern are those of iron, zinc and also vitamins A and D, especially among reproductive women.
In many low- and middle-income countries, obesity and diet-related chronic diseases commonly co-exist with undernutrition. For instance, in Ghana in 2014, 19% of children were stunted and 11% underweight while more than 40% of women were overweight. This was an indication of the existence of double burden of malnutrition in the country.
The Vice President further argued that the fortification of food products with essential micronutrients will improve upon the quality of local products. He said it will also provide processing companies with the competitive advantage in the wake of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Overall, food fortification is extremely essential to ensure the good health of Ghanaian consumers, he added.
Speaking in an interview, Ayim Darke therefore said government must implement a law to ensure local food products are of the highest quality.
“We believe that fortified products will have to go through a legislative instrument. We will urge the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) to explore that space. Thus, all food and beverage producers will go through a product certification process by law instead of doing it voluntarily.”Humphrey Ayim Darke, Vice President of AGI.
The ‘Obaasima’ Food Fortification Project
The ‘Obaasima’ fortification project is a market-based approach which addresses micronutrient deficiencies by creating demand for fortified packaged foods. The German International Corporation Agency (GIZ), Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) and AGI launched the ‘Obaasima’ seal under the Affordable Nutritious Foods for Women (ANF4W) partnership programme.
The ‘Obaasima’ seal represents endorsement of foods fortified with locally appropriate micronutrients, including 18 vitamins and minerals. These fortified products provide up to 100% of Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) nutrients for reproductive women as well as a balanced proportion of calories from protein and fat.
Recently, AGI launched fortified foods produced under the ‘Obaasima’ food fortification project. Speaking at the launch, the Vice President revealed that five companies have met the projects’ criteria. These companies have had their products confirmed as suitable for fortification with 18 vitamins and minerals.
The fortified products available on the markets for consumption are: Tom Vita X and Tom Vita Regular from Yedent Agro Food Industries Limited; gari mix from Oxy Industries Limited; Lola biscuits from Mass Industries Limited; Dunu Tom brown from Praise Exports and Lovit cereal from Premium foods Limited.
“The ‘Obaasima’ seal guarantees that food products carrying the seal fulfill certain nutrition criteria. This includes a minimum content of minerals and vitamins and maximum permissible levels of sugar and salt.”Humphrey Ayim Darke, Vice President of AGI.
Successfully, the ‘Obaasima’ project has also offered food safety training to selected SMEs in three test markets. These markets are the Ashanti, Western and Greater Accra regions. Also, 115 food and beverage businesses have benefitted from these training programmes over the last three years.