In the next five years, soy sauce and fish sauce will be giving most Cambodian meals not just extra flavour, but extra nutrition, if the Reproductive and Child Health Alliance (RACHA) has its way.
RACHA has agreed to help seven major fish sauce and soy sauce producers use a grant of more than US$1.2 million from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) to fortify their products with iron in a bid to reduce rampant anemia, officials said at a signing hosted by the National Sub-Committee for Food Fortification yesterday.
“Reducing iron deficiency is essential in preventing deaths among women and children,” said Ou Orhat, secretary of state at the Ministry of Planning.
“Currently, reproductive women, 15-49 years old, on average lack 44 per cent of the necessary amount of iron, while children under 5 years are the most deficient, lacking on average 55 per cent of the necessary amount, according to the Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey in 2010,” RACHA’s food fortification project manager Pol Sambath said at yesterday’s event.
Sambath said the project will offer sauce producers materials, technical training and monitoring in order to lower the average to 30 per cent for women as well as children under 14.
The project hopes to include all 44 of the country’s large producers of the sauces within five years, reaching 11 million of Cambodia’s 14 million citizens.
This goal will require an additional US$1.8 million, Sambath said, but has asked partners and the government for support.
Tests of iron-fortified products of three producers in Kampot, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh from 2005 to 2007 showed that iron fortification through fish sauce and soy sauce was an effective strategy, he said.
RACHA’s research shows that 90 per cent of Cambodians use fish sauce or soy sauce daily.
While many wealthy nations have fortified food with iron since the 1950s, less developed nations have only recently begun the practice, with Cambodia and Vietnam currently working to fortify rice as well as sauces, according to GAIN.