Churches wade into fortification fray

The Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe says it risks losing significant business if Apostolic sects proceed with a threat not to consume food that undergoes State-mandated fortification.

GMAZ last week filed a High Court application to block Government from enforcing food fortification.

Fortification entails adding minute levels of vitamins and minerals to foods during processing to increase micronutrient intake in a population.

Some of the foods include wheat, vegetable oils, sugar, wheat, flour and commercially milled maize meal.

Wheat, flour and maize meal will be fortified with Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, iron and zinc. Sugar will also be fortified with Vitamin A and cooking oil with Vitamin A and D.

Millers say they cannot afford the costs of fortification, and now add that some churches have pointed out strict consumption regulations that run parallel to the process.

GMAZ president Mr Tafadzwa Musarara on August 16, 2017 wrote a five-page letter to Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa under the reference: “Notice to apply for invalidation of Statutory Instrument 120 of 2016 Food and Food Standards (Food Fortification) Regulations.”

He said: “The law is being hurriedly enforced and has the potential to close down millers or reduce the capacity utilisation of the milling industry which will consequently compromise national food security.

“Johane Masowe (Apostolic Sect), who claim that they have more than two million followers in Zimbabwe, claimed that they were not consulted on the matter and do not agree to the addition of artificial materials in the staple food as it is against their church doctrine.

“Another sister Apostolic sect with a very significant following do not eat commercial bread because it is made of yeast which they regard to be ‘unholy’. These fundamentals have a direct and significant bearing on the viability of our business.”

In interviews with The Sunday Mail Society last week, Johane Marange and Johane Masowe members said they needed information on where the nutrients would be extracted from.

“We have no problem with Government policies but they need to inform us and give us information before implementing policies,” said Madzibaba Elijah Mafukidze, a University of Zimbabwe student.

“We don’t eat pork, madora (mopani worms), ishwa (flying ants), ducks, rabbits among many other things, so our concerns are very valid. We need to know where the added nutrients are being extracted from.

“As Vapostori, Government should have included us in consultations, our members need to know the purpose or aim of fortification so that it removes the veil of uncertainty among Vapostori.”

Madzimai Eunice Saizi of Johanne Marange said while food fortification seemed good, engagement was important.

“We were born of parents who were apostolic church members.

“Our mother didn’t believe in sending us to school or hospitals but after numerous Government engagements they reformed.

“Look, now we are taking our children to school and hospitals. We need proper information about the whole process only, that is all we want,” said Madzimai Saizi.

Government’s Zimbabwe National Food Fortification Strategy (2014-2018) targets micro-nutrient deficiencies after the 2012 Zimbabwe Micro-Nutrient Survey revealed that nearly 1,5 million adults had anaemia deficits that affected work performance.

It also revealed that 19 percent of children between six and 59 months were Vitamin A deficient, and 72 and 31 percent had iron and anaemic deficiencies.

An example of a fortified food is salt, which has iodine added to it to combat enlargement of the thyroid (goitre) and mental retardation in children.

Health Deputy Minister Dr Aldrin Musiiwa said Government was open to engagement and would consider a grace period before fortification started.

“If individual companies in the milling and baking industry can come up with their vindications, we may consider giving them a waiver until the time they would have given to comply with the law.

“We can’t stop the fortification process as it has become law and no one can challenge it now.

“We are free to negotiate with anyone or any company but what we don’t want is for an individual to lobby for a group of people without coming to see us as an individual to explain his or her current problem,” said Dr Musiiwa.

In June, Heath Minister Dr Parirenyatwa said millers and bakers who did not comply with mandatory food fortification – particularly for maize meal, sugar, cooking oil and wheat flour — would have their operating licences cancelled.

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