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Food fortification must improve Lao people’s health

The level of chronic malnutrition in Laos has decreased from 44 percent in 2012 to 33 percent in 2017. However, the country still has the highest rate of malnutrition in the South East Asian region making the population’s intake of quality nutrients a challenge.
This was the key message delivered at 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.

The National Nutrition Committee Secretariat organised a technical workshop in Vientiane this week, with technical assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP) and input of experts from the German chemical company  BASF.
The workshop was chaired by the Deputy Minister of Health, Associate Professor Dr Phouthone Muongpak, with the cochair WFP Deputy Country Director and Representative of the United Nations World Food Programme Mr Hakan Tongul.
Associate Professor Dr Phouthone said, “The government has successfully implemented mandatory saltiodisation 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.”
“The workshop is an important milestone, because it is the first step in setting standards for food fortification in Laos,” he added.
Food fortification is one of the key priorities of the National Nutrition Strategy to 2025 and Plan of Action 2016-2020.
Mr Hakan Tongul said that food fortification is one of the most costeffective 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.
“As we start the long pathway towards food fortification in Laos, 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 Laos in a sustainable way,” he added.
According to a report at the meeting, food fortification means the addition of minerals, vitamins and other socalled micronutrients to food, with the aim to reduce problems related to health that stem from poor diets.
The Lao government 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 repro ductive age, Thiamin (vitamin B1) deficiency has also been reported in Laos.
Other micronutrient deficiencies are also prevalent, including calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin B2, vitamin B3 and vitamin D.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update July 5, 2019)

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