The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, has urged the federal government to consider increasing taxes on sugary and processed foods as a means of fighting malnutrition in the country.
Director of the panel, Sandy Thomas, an academic professor, gave the advice at a discussion on nutrition in Abuja.
She also suggested that government should subsidise nutritious foods in public places in order to make it more affordable to the populace.
“Government of Nigeria can put taxes on sugary drinks, foods,” Thomas said.
“In Mexico, this is beginning to have effects on the amount of sugary things that people buy.
“Government can also subsidise healthy foods. There are schemes where the government can make fruits and vegetables more affordable, more available and accessible.”
The nutrition expert said it was regrettable that majority of children in the North East and North west region of the country are malnourished and stunted as a result of lack of nutritious foods.
Icirnigeria has done extensive report on how malnutrition contributes not only to stunting in children but also to low cognitive, mental and intellectual development, especially in the Northern region of Nigeria.
You can read the report here.
According to Thomas, Nigeria needs to transform its food environment in ways that promote diversity, availability and safety of nutritious foods.
“We need to use government influence, power of industry, civil society to make sure consumers can also exercise good choices on what to eat,” she said.
Thomas added that nutritious foods should be made available in prisons, hospitals and schools in order to ensure a healthy populace.
She noted that concerted efforts must be made by governments of nations to curb the citizens’ intake of sugary and processed foods, adding that companies that produce such foods spend heavily on advertisements annually.
For instance, Thomas disclosed that beverage and food companies invested about 17 per cent of the global spending on advertisement in 2012 in order to get more people to purchase their products.
She however pointed out that consumption of processed foods was the major cause of malnutrition, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other such diseases which are on the increase in developing countries.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition was established in August 2013 at the Nutrition for Growth Summit in London.
It is jointly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Department for International Development, DFID.
The panel is made up of independent group of experts and leaders who hold or have held high office and are showing strong personal commitment to improving nutrition.
It aims to provide guidance to decision makers, particularly governments, to inform and promote agricultural and food policies, and investment for improved nutrition in low and middle income countries.