On November 25, 2021, the Government of Sindh became the first legislature in Pakistan to pass a mandatory food fortification law. The Sindh Food Fortification Bill, 2020 mandates that all wheat flour mills and chakkis, or small wheat flour producers, produce only fortified wheat flour.

“We congratulate the Government of Sindh on being the first province in Pakistan to pass mandatory food fortification legislation,” said Dr. Shabina Raza, Country Director, Nutrition International, Pakistan. “The Sindh Food Fortification Bill, 2020 is the result of a long-standing collaboration between the Sindh Government and Nutrition International to provide sustainable and cost-effective access to wheat flour fortified with iron, zinc, folic acid, and vitamins A, D, and B12 to people living in vulnerable situations particularly adolescent girls, women and children.”

This legislation comes as the country faces alarming rates of stunting and wasting among children, and micronutrient deficiencies among women. According to the 2018 Pakistan National Nutrition Survey 2018, an estimated 40.2% of children under the age of five are stunted, and nearly 17.7% are wasted. Similarly, 42% of women of reproductive age are anaemic, 27% are vitamin A-deficient, and 80% are vitamin D-deficient.

The new law will provide high-need communities with sustainable access to fortified wheat flour and play a vital role in reducing rates of anaemia, neural tube defects, and deficiencies of vitamins A, D, and zinc. It will also pave the way for similar legislation in other provinces.

“It is indeed a great moment for the Government of Sindh to have become the first province in Pakistan to pass the legislation on mandatory food fortification,” said Rana Hamir Singh, Member of the Provincial Assembly and Chairman, Standing Committee on Food, Government of Sindh. “Implementation of this legislation shall greatly reduce the acute micronutrients deficiencies among the population, especially women and children. It will contribute to children’s capacity to learn and earn, to become a productive part of a modern economy, without being left behind. I am thankful to Nutrition International for its support. I hope to continue supporting the Food Department to engage all stakeholders in implementing the law in letter and spirit.”

Since 2018, Nutrition International has been working closely with the Government of Sindh to introduce mandatory food fortification legislation by engaging various stakeholders including the wheat flour and edible oil industries, civil society, legislators and the public, providing evidence-based recommendations for aligning food fortification standards to global best practices, supporting formation and implementation of food fortification systems, and ensuring quality control and quality assurance of fortification in the industry.

“As a custodian and implementing department of this law, it would be a great opportunity for food officers to contribute to reducing the acute micronutrient deficiencies among the population,” said Abdul Haleem Sheikh, Secretary of Sindh Food Department. “My priority would be to engage all stakeholders and to allocate proper resources so that food fortification takes place all over the Sindh province.”

For Pakistan, which is experiencing multi-faceted malnutrition challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, food fortification presents a low-cost scalable solution that can deliver essential nutrients to a large portion of the population through widely consumed staple foods. The new legislation will help to improve health, immunity and nutrition outcomes and contribute to building a healthier country.