The tagline on the label reads: Iron-fortified fish sauce – for good health, energy and a happy family.
By year’s end, Cambodians could find their beloved fish and soy sauce bearing these labels – if plans to issue a government sub-decree bear fruit, said Pol Sambath, project director of the Food Fortification Program at the Reproductive and Child Health Alliance (RACHA).
The government intends to make it mandatory for fish sauce and soy sauce sold here to be fortified with iron by the first quarter of next year.
It is part of a plan to combat anemia in women and young children.
According to the 2010 Cambodia Demographic Health Survey (CDHS), iron-deficiency anemia is rampant, with 44 and 55 per cent of women of reproductive age and children under five years of age, respectively, suffering from the condition.
“11 million people in total stand to benefit,” said Sambath, speaking at the launch of the Iron Fortification of Fish Sauce and Soy Sauce Project yesterday at the InterContinental Hotel.
But RACHA, which is working together with the government, faces an uphill task to get there.
Just ten per cent of people knew about the benefits of iron fortification, and over three per cent had access to products boosted with the nutrient, Sambath said.
“Fish sauce producers here are reluctant to start, because they are afraid people will not understand the benefits and think their products have harmful chemicals instead,” he added.
Only 11 out of Cambodia’s 81 fish and soy sauce producers have signed up for the project. The plan is to reach 80 per cent of the population.
The government will also issue a sub-decree making it mandatory to comply with regulations by the end of the first quarter next year, said Sambath.
It’s not doing it now because it costs three times as much for small-scale producers to fortify their products, he said.
Chea Chantum, deputy director general of Planning Department at the Ministry of Planning, encouraged manufacturers to come aboard – those that do so will have their iron supplements subsided for five years.
To contact the reporter on this story: Danson Cheong at [email protected]