In a bid to scale processors’ compliance levels in food fortification, TechnoServe Nigeria has urged operators of small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) in the food industry to adopt the Micronutrient Fortification Index (MFI) model to self-regulate.
The MFI, a self-assessment driven approach, has been developed in conjunction with industry partners and the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
It serves as an innovative mechanism to support the food industry in self-regulating the improvement of fortification compliance, alongside the existing regulatory regime.
“The MFI is a proactive measure to increase food fortification compliance in the country,” Ike IIegbune, TechnoServe’s lead consultant for MFI, said during a presentation at the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST) 44th annual conference.
Ilegbune said that the MFI helps in derisking companies’ exposure to failures in maintaining both regulatory and best-practice standards in fortification compliance as well as overall quality management, adding that it helps businesses integrate effectiveness from strategic governance, to production and to consumer satisfaction.
He described the index as being made up of three important components which include the self-assessment tools, industry intelligence, and periodic independent testing.
“The self-assessment tool enables internal benchmarking by participant companies, enabling them to measure and report internally on the efficiency and effectiveness their people, processes, partnerships, and the entire strategic governance framework that holds them in place”, he said.
“The periodic independent product testing uses established protocols to select products and test for product compliance with fortification standards,” he added.
According to IIegbune, the model adopted for TechnoServe’s MFI has worked successfully in other areas, including corporate governance, noting that he would like to see companies reporting on MFI in their annual reports and communicating incremental improvements to key stakeholders.
“We are currently involved in the consolidation of the MFI and we want to see a gradual movement to sustainability,” he said. “By 2024, we hope to able to see a self-sustaining MFI system”.
Speaking shortly after, Larry Umunna, TechnoServe’s regional director for West Africa said that the firm is deeply honoured to be a partner of NIFST.
TechnoServe Nigeria through its Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) initiative is increasing the compliance of processors in fortification of their products with essential micronutrients by understanding their challenges and helping them in closing the gaps.
He pointed out that the SAPFF project has provided customised assistance to the flour mills, edible oil, and sugar processing operators over the last three and a half years, with the MFI being the latest in its proactive initiatives to achieve its program objectives.
He noted that the SAPFF project has worked with several major food vehicle processors, accounting for a significant increase in fortification compliance from 50 to 75percent in that period, with a target to get to 90percent at the end of the project.
He stressed that the project’s success was based on the commitment of industry CEOs who are tasked with ensuring their companies’ compliance with Nigeria’s food fortification regulations for the health and economic benefits of its citizenry.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it compulsory for businesses to rethink their processes while adjusting to the new normal, he stated.
“The MFI, therefore, presents an opportunity for participants to augment regulatory compliance efforts and to build sustainability and resilience into their business models, something we encourage SMEs to adopt,” he added.