Govt resolute on food fortification

Shamiso Yikoniko
GOVERNMENT will not bow down to pressure from some sections opposed to the mandatory food fortification programme and will defend the policy to ensure its success.

Health and Child Care permanent secretary Dr Gerald Gwinji said the ministry would defend the programme against some elements that are seeking court intervention to derail it. Last week, the Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) and the Bulawayo United Residents’ Association (BURA) filed High Court applications to block the programme.

GMAZ and BURA want Sections 4 (i) (b) and (e), 5 (b) and (e) and 7 of the Food Fortification Regulations 2016 set aside. The regulations articulate that maize meal and wheat flour must be fortified and that; “no person shall manufacture, import, pack, store, or sell any wheat flour, milled maize products, sugar, salt or edible oil unless such flour, sugar or edible oil is fortified unless exempted by the Secretary of Health and Child Care”.

Government devised Statutory Instrument 120 of 2017-Mandatory Food Fortification Programme — compelling food processing companies to add nutrients to the foods with effect from I July this year. The move has seen millers argue that the requirements are unreasonable and invalid while BURA argues that mandatory fortification makes a fatal assumption that everyone who resides in Zimbabwe has a nutrient deficiency.

In a response following the court action, Dr Gwinji said: “We will be defending the Act and its provisions.” Research shows that one in three children in Zimbabwe suffers from chronic malnutrition and this results in the hampering of their growth and development. Studies also highlight that an estimated 25 percent of child deaths are attributable to nutritional deficiencies.

These deficiencies not only affect an individual’s long-term health but can also raise societal and public health care costs and potentially depress a nation’s economic productivity.

Malnutrition increases the likelihood of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.

While some companies are resisting the food fortification programme, others are complying with the directive.

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