President Barrow made this remark in a speech read by Dr. Isatou Touray, vice president of The Gambia during the launching of the Food Fortification Regulation 2020 at Sir Dawda Jawara International Conference hall.
The project is funded by European Union (EU) and supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in partnership with the Food Safety and Quality Authority (FSQA).
“With the launch of the regulation, I am urging producers, manufacturers, importers and distributors of flour, edible oil and salt to comply with the requirement of the regulation to improve the micronutrient status of The Gambian population. And by extension protecting the health of the consumers,” he said.
“I am equally urging consumers of these foods to demand safe and nutritious foods by making informed choices.”
He said micronutrient deficiencies formed an important global health issue and added malnutrition affecting key development outcomes including poor physical and mental development among children, mental retardation, blindness and general losses in productivity and potential.
“The health impacts of micronutrient deficiencies are not always acutely visible. It is sometimes hiding,” he noted.
The head of state said the World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that more than two billion people suffer micronutrient deficiency worldwide.
Speaking further, he said everyone can experience micronutrient deficiency but scientific research has shown that this deficiency is widely prevalent among women and children in The Gambia.
Meanwhile, he said this critical problem can be best addressed through a national food fortification programme which will encompass the enforcement of the mandatory fortification of key food products with the right micronutrient.
“This approach will ensure that our population easily accesses and consumes foods with the target micronutrients,” he said.
He affirmed that the government is committed to improve nutrition by endorsing the 2014 road declaration on nutrition.
“Further, my country has endorsed the sustainable development goals (SDG), especially SDG 2 to achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture and will take all the necessary actions for its implementation,” he added.
Barrow said The Gambia is among the few countries in Africa with a modernised control system, noting the country now has a food safety agency that is responsible for all food safety matters in The Gambia.
This modern system, he said, allows effective and efficient control of food safety in the entire food value chain and added food safety is essential in the protection of the health and safety of the population.
“In line with the national development plan 2081-2021 the government through the FSQA continues to deliver and provide a strong regulatory regime for food safety in The Gambia,” he said.