Stumbling onto a delicious fortified food in Lorengau

Recently, I came to know of a biscuit known as the Start Smart Breakfast Biscuit. I was in Lorengau town and went to the shop located at the old Manus Sports Club which is at the back of the Habourside Hotel. As I was looking through the shelves for biscuits, I saw this bright yellow but small packet of biscuit. It cost K1.20 for one packet. It had, on its label, ‘fortified with essential vitamins’ which I saw was Vitamin A, B6 and B12.

The small packet of biscuit fits snugly into the palm of my hand

Now this biscuit is an example of a fortified food. A fortified food is a food that is enriched by adding necessary vitamins into the food so that certain people in the general population can have access to this very important Vitamins. For example, Goiter, which is the irregular growth of the thyroid gland, comes from a lack of iodine in the body. To combat this problem, researchers and public health officials decided that when table salt is produced in a factory, iodine is added so that when the general population has access to this iodized salt, it reduces the number of people who may suffer from goiter. Another example is that of rice fortification where the process of adding micronutrients like iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 can increase the nutritional value of rice and prevent anemia, which is a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues.

Now for the smart biscuits, I noticed that it was fortified with Vitamin A. In PNG vitamin A is given through immunisation clinics. However, once the immunisation schedule has completed, many children tend not to attend well baby clinics, which reduces the uptake of vitamin A supplementation. Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) is associated with impaired vision, permanent loss of sight, and an increased risk of infection and death from infectious diseases, including measles that can persist throughout the lifecycle. VAD is severe problem among children 6 – 59 months. The prevalence of Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in children aged 6 – 59 months is 25.6%, which is a considered severe public health problem. The only other data available for VAD is among non-pregnant women aged 15 – 49 years where the prevalence of VAD is 0.7% (National Department of Health 2005).

So this packet has 8 small square shaped biscuits and they are very sweet. I later found out that this shop at the old Manus Sports Club is the only shop in Lorengau and Manus that sells this product. This biscuit is produced in the country by Paradise Foods Limited. I am not sure if K1.20 is the same price everywhere around the country but it seems to be a good price for such a fortified food. It is essential that young growing children have access to these foods such as this Start Smart Biscuits.

The Papua New Guinea National Nutrition Policy 2016-2026 supports the fortification of foods in our country. However, the lack of strong research into food and nutrition is still lacking in this country and enforcement of such policies are still lacking. I also hope that those who are elected into PNG’s next parliament focus on leading appropriate national agencies in implementing key strategies found in the national policy. Its even sadder to know that none of our universities have a specific Diploma or Bachelor or Postgraduate program in Nutrition or Dietetics including the management of nutrition programs!

Try this fortified food today!