Stakeholders in Nigeria’s food business have stressed the importance of food fortification in the country and how it will lead the citizens on a sustainable path to healthy living. DUSTIN AGHEDO writes.
Creating a common set of compliance standards and giving companies the tools, they need to effectively fortify their foods will lead Nigeria to a sustainable path to delivering food that will help them live healthier and more productive lives, stakeholders in food manufacturing have said.
Chairman, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, in his contribution at a recent forum organised by food manufacturers and processors in Lagos said, “Better nutrition for our consumers means better health and economic development for our nation.”
Managing director, Crown Flour Mill Limited, Mr Ashish Pande, while speaking on his firm’s commitment to food fortification said, “We prioritise the delivery of high quality and fortified food products to the Nigerian market to meet the demand of consumers for foods that are rich in essential micro-nutrients. The acquisition of our premix facility was aimed at achieving the grand target of enriching every food product that comes through our state-of-the-art factory with essential food minerals that meet the regulatory requirement of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria and the target set at the last Nigerian Food Processing and Nutrition Leadership Forum on food fortification.”
Crown Flour Mill, manufacturer of Semolina, said it plans to champion food fortification in Nigeria as it says it’s committed to making something that’s already great even better. Explaining more about Semolina, Crown Flour Mill said the product is used for making some of the world’s most cherished meals.
The company disclosed in a statement that, ‘‘Semolina is produced from the endosperm of wheat through a grooved steel roller milling process. The milling process flakes the wheat into three particles comprising bran, germ and endosperm. The endosperm particle, which is regarded as the semolina is ground into flour. While other flour types are produced from the Common Wheat, Semolina is produced from durum wheat which constitutes about 5% to 8% of the total global wheat cultivation. The rarity, higher protein-content, aroma quality, texture, compactness and coarseness of the flour produced from this wheat-type makes Semolina a highly sought-after food ingredient.’’
Semolina is mostly used for making pasta or couscous, two notable foods that are common in Italy and other parts of Africa respectively. It is used also for making sweet puddings and porridge in places like the United States and Europe. Starting from the 16th-century era, Semolina has spread its relevance to almost every modern city on all continents. For instance, in Italy, it is called ‘Semolino’. Indians simply refer to it as ‘Suji’ or ‘Sooji’. In Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, it is known as ‘Semo’.
Like other parts of the world, Semolina has endeared itself to millions of Nigerians as a staple food. This wasn’t always the case. Semolina wasn’t as widespread in the period leading to the 70s. Its growth in popularity began sometime in the early 80s and continued steadily as awareness increased around its uses, nutrition, health and other benefits such as its ease of preparation, accessible pricing and ability to digest easily without causing heaviness after eating. Today, ‘Semo’, as it is widely called in the country, needs no introduction. It has ingrained itself into the taste buds and culinary vocabulary of the Nigerian populace. This popularity is best underlined by the trending catch-phrase turned-music lyric – “Ko wo Ankara, ko je Semo”, which simply means, only people wearing “aso-ebi” (special social attires) get served Semo (food) and gifts at parties.
Recognising the overall importance of Semolina, or ‘Semo’, to Nigerian households with the country’s growing population, Crown Flour Mill, a subsidiary of Olam Group which produces and sells Semolina under the leading brand names- Mama Gold, and Supreme has acquired a Vitamin premix facility to scale up the nutrient quality of its food products and brands by fortifying them with essential vitamins and food minerals required for healthy living. The company kick started its commitment to champion and lead food fortification in Nigeria with its Semolina brands and plans to extend this to all its food product in next couple of months.
This move is aimed at enriching Nigerian dining experience as well ensuring prime consumer health conditions, in line with the requirement of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria and the target set at the last Nigerian Food Processing and Nutrition Leadership Forum on food fortification.
Presently, all Crown Flour Mill Semolina brands are fortified with Vitamin A and other essential Micronutrients which provide the body with its daily requirement as per the food regulatory standards. These micronutrients include (Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B9, Vitamin B12, Zinc and Iron). The Semolina brands are high in protein, fibre, B vitamins like thiamine and folate, which helps convert food into energy. They are also a good source of iron and magnesium which supports red blood cell production, heart health, and blood sugar control.
These micronutrients perform key functions in the body such as – help form and maintain healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin. Helps to promote good eyesight, especially in low light, healthy pregnancy and breastfeeding.
According to the general manager, Marketing B2C of the Company, Bola Adeniji, “These micronutrient contents also help form and maintain healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, and mucus membranes, while promoting good eyesight and healthy skin.”
Adeniji explained that the iron supplementation in the Mama Gold Semolina, and Supreme Semolina help pregnant women prevent low birthweight, maternal anaemia and other adverse outcomes that usually arise from iron deficiency.
According to the Vitamin and Mineral Damage Assessment Report (2004), 25% of Nigerian children are growing up with low immunity levels, leading to frequent ill health and poor growth due to Vitamin A deficiency. The report established that only 27% of Nigerian children between 6 months and five years receive Vitamin A supplements routinely through health facilities.
The importance of food fortification drives and commitments such as Crown Flour Mills can therefore not be overemphasised. The growth in popularity of the brands is linked, among others, to the nutritious benefits derived from the food and the affordability of the food-type compared to some other Nigerian staples. This is a big score for the ever-growing Nigerian “fit-fam” community.