The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, has appealed to the federal government to increase taxes on sugary and processed foods to combat malnutrition in the country.
Sandy Thomas, the Director of the panel, made the appeal at a discussion on nutrition in Abuja on Wednesday.
She expressed regret over the increasing number of malnourished and stunted children especially in the North East and North West of the country as a result of the consumption of those foods.
The professor also advised the government to subsidise nutritious foods in public places to assist consumers make informed decisions on nutritious foods.
According to her, Nigeria needs to transform her food environment in ways that promote diversity, availability and safety of nutritious foods.
The nutrition expert noted that making nutritious foods available in prisons, hospitals and schools would encourage the consumption of healthy foods.
She disclosed that beverage and food companies invested about 17 per cent of the global spending on advertisement in 2012 just to get people patronise their products.
Ms. Thomas said that consumption of processed foods was the major cause of malnutrition, obesity, type 2 diabetes, which were on the increase in developing countries.
“Government of Nigeria can put taxes on sugary drinks, foods.
“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.
“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.
The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that the Panel was established in August 2013 at the Nutrition for Growth Summit in London.
It was jointly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
It is an independent group of experts and leaders who hold or have held high office and are showing strong personal commitment to improving nutrition.
The panel 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.