MAPUTO, Shops and other businesses which sell basic foodstuffs which have not been fortified with micro-nutrients in Mozambique risk seeing their merchandise seized and removed from the shelves with effect from March 2018, says Rita Freitas, the General Inspector of the government’s National Inspectorate of Economic Activities (INAE).

She gave the warning when addressing a seminar here on progress made so far in the National Food Fortification Programme, which is aimed at promoting consumption of food which are fortified with micro nutrients in order to reduce chronic malnutrition, mainly among children under five years of age.

Freitas said that from March next year all maize flour, wheat flour, vegetable oil, sugar and salt sold in the country must be fortified. She promised that the INAE would check on the sale of these products in shops and markets.

In September, the Mozambican authorities banned the import on non-fortified basic foods but there are believed to be many stocks of non-fortified foods, and the owners have been given until March 2018 to dispose of them.

The National Co-ordinator of the Food Fortification Programme, Eduarda Mungoi, told the meeting that this year, more than three million Mozambicans had consumed fortified wheat flour and she expected this number to rise to 14 million in 2018.

Around 43 per cent of children in Mozambique suffer from chronic malnutrition, which is caused not only by an absolute shortage of food, but by a poor diet which is lacking in key nutrients. The micro-nutrients to be added include vitamin A, folic acid, iron, zinc and iodine with the latter usually added to salt.

Although the micro-nutrients are added to foods in very small amounts, and are usually consumed at a rate of less than 100 milligrammes per day, they are critical for good health. For example, vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness and reduces the body’s ability to fight infection. Iron deficiency causes anaemia, while zinc deficiency can increase the risks of diarrhoea and pneumonia, and iodine deficiency can lead to goiters.