(KPL) The National Nutrition Committee Secretariat organised a technical workshop on reviewing the current status of food fortification and focusing on the initial steps of setting standards for food fortification in Laos, with technical assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP) and input of experts from the German chemical company BASF.
Food fortification means the addition of minerals, vitamins and other so-called micronutrients to food, with the aim to reduce problems related to health that stem from poor diets.
Levels of chronic malnutrition in the Lao PDR have decreased from 44 % in 2012 to 33 % in 2017. However, the country has some of the highest rates of malnutrition in the South East Asia region with continued serious challenges the population’s intake of quality nutrients.
The government of the Lao PDR recognises micronutrient malnutrition or so-called hidden hunger as a major development challenge.
Along with high rates of anaemia in children under five years of age and women of reproductive age, Thiamin (vitamin B1) deficiency has also been reported in the Lao PDR.
Other micronutrient deficiencies are also prevalent, including calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin B2, vitamin B3 and vitamin D.
The workshop was chaired by Vice Minister of Health Phouthon MuongPak, with co-chair Mr. Hakan Tongul, WFP Deputy Country Director and Representative of the United Nations World Food Programme.
Key participants included line ministries, key development partners and private sector organisations, specifically from the food industry.
The Government has successfully implemented mandatory salt-iodization to prevent Iodine Deficiency Disorders. The opportunity to fortify other foods such as rice, oil, noodles, soy sauce or dairy products must be seized and will require support from all stakeholders, said Dr. Phouthon Muong Pak.
Food fortification is one of the key priorities of the National Nutrition Strategy to 2025 and Plan of Action 2016 � 2020.
Food fortification is one of the most cost effective ways to improve access to micronutrients across the whole population, including most importantly for adolescent girls and women of reproductive age who are most at risk, Mr. Hakan Tongul said, As we start the long pathway towards food fortification in the Lao PDR, our first steps will be to review national standards and learn from experiences of neighbouring countries. In this way, we can prepare a proper legislative and regulatory environment, so that food fortification can eventually contribute to improved public health in the Lao PDR in a sustainable way, he added.
Source: Lao News Agency