Professor of IPB University: Almost 50 Percent of Indonesian People Experience Hidden Hunger

The world is currently faced with the problem of a global food crisis and this poses a threat to the occurrence of food insecurity in various countries. The causes are complex, including climate change that affects food production, rising geopolitical tensions (Russia-Ukraine war), social conflicts in Africa, and sharply rising inflation in various parts of the world.

Prof. Drajat Martianto, Professor of Nutrition Science, Faculty of Human Ecology, IPB University, said that although the condition of Indonesia's food security is still relatively good, there has been a decline in national food security. "Indonesia's position in the Global Food Security Index has decreased after the COVID-19 pandemic. Indonesia is currently facing a triple burden of malnutrition, three nutritional problems at once, namely stunting and wasting, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies (KGM) or what is often referred to as the hidden hunger," he said at the Pre-Oration Scientific Professor Press Conference, (15/9).

According to him, the biggest challenge for the Indonesian people today is no longer a lack of energy and protein, but a hidden hunger. Namely in the form of micronutrient deficiencies, especially deficiencies of iron, iodine, folic acid, zinc, vitamin A and other micronutrients.

He explained that research shows that only 1 percent of Indonesian people are unable to access macro food (which contains carbohydrates). The problem is that almost 50 percent of Indonesia's population lacks vegetables, fruits, animal foods and nuts.

“The quality of our food consumption is not good. Research shows that 1 in 2 Indonesians cannot afford animal foods, fruits and vegetables (which contain micronutrients). They experience a hidden hunger. It is called hidden hunger because often the signs are not visible, but in fact the impact is very large. Micronutrients have been proven to be important nutritional elements for increasing work productivity, intelligence and immunity,” he explained.

Nationally, he continued, Indonesia could suffer a loss of more than 50 trillion rupiah from low work productivity due to Iron Nutrient Anemia (AGB). This figure does not include health care costs due to severe micronutrient deficiencies and other nutritional problems.

“Food diversification, supplementation and food fortification along with environmental hygiene and sanitation are solutions to the problem of micronutrient deficiency. Fortification or the addition of certain nutrients to food has proven to be effective in reducing hidden hunger, as well as being very cost-effective,” he said.

According to him, the cost of food fortification to overcome the lack of iodine, vitamin A and iron in various countries is generally less than 0.5 percent of the product price, without additional costs for distribution to consumers. Given its role in labor productivity and income, the food fortification program is also seen as part of the poverty alleviation program.

So far, he added, the Indonesian government has established a mandatory food fortification program to overcome Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDA) through salt fortification, Iron Nutritional Anemia (AGB) through flour fortification and cooking oil fortification with vitamin A to overcome vitamin A deficiency (VAC). .

“The government's commitment to food fortification in the future is still very strong. This is indicated by the inclusion of the food fortification program in the 2019-2024 National Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMN). However, it is realized that the dynamics of the food fortification program are very large,” he said.

He continued, the implementation of iodized salt fortification is faced with a large number of salt industries that do not meet the Indonesian National Standard (SNI), so that the universal salt iodization target has not yet been realized. Consumption of salt that meets the requirements also only reached 77 percent of households.

“Meanwhile, the implementation of mandatory fortification of vitamin A in cooking oil is very dynamic, influenced by various challenges. Starting from the issue of importing retinyl palmitate versus the use of beta carotene, the issue of burden for the oil industry when there is a large disparity in domestic and international prices, environmental issues related to the change from bulk oil to packaged oil and so on," he added.

Meanwhile, flour fortification is also faced with the issue of importing fortifications and wheat as a food carrier (vehicle) which is almost 100 percent imported, trade barriers and the effectiveness of the iron used which still requires scientific evidence in the field.
“To complete the mandatory fortification, a small-scale fortification strategy is needed for staple foods such as sago, corn flour, cassava flour/mocaf and coconut oil, palm bulk oil. This strategy is to ensure the development of Indonesian children in every corner of the country can run optimally," he said.

He added that as the third largest rice producing country in the world, rice fortification for distribution to special groups (social assistance, natural disaster assistance) and voluntary commercially needs to be studied more deeply.

"The consideration is that the prevalence of AGB in Indonesia is still high and does not only affect poor households, so it is hoped that it can effectively cover all populations because rice is consumed by almost all Indonesians," he concluded. (zul)

Published Date : 15-Sep-2022

Resource Person : Prof Drajat Martianto

Keyword : IPB University, Nutrition, Scientific Oration, Professor