Fortified Food – The Assured Way to Deal with Global Nutritional Deficiencies
Millions worldwide sleep on an empty stomach every night. Undernourishment and malnutrition are the top two issues affecting and threatening global health. Surprisingly, micronutrient deficiencies are not restricted to the poor.
While there are increased food choices today, micronutrient densities are not proportionately adequate. Today’s hectic pace of life and lack of dietary care lead to deficiencies in nutrition even in well-educated individuals and those belonging to higher socio- economic strata.
As per a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report, around 462 million adults worldwide are underweight and an estimated 159 million children under the age of 5 years are stunted and 50 million are wasted. Nearly 2 billion people across the globe suffer from micronutrient deficiencies as they are unable to get essential daily nutrition.
In this context, food fortification has emerged as a safe and surefire way to improve the nutritional value of a diet without causing any complications or side-affects. million are wasted. As a result, countries around the world have been adopting fortification of staples such as rice and wheat.
A healthy balanced diet is recommended for prevention of the following malnutrition related disorders:
• Nutrient Deficiencies
• Fatigue Disorders
• Food Intolerance
• Mental Disorders
• Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency Disorders
• Iodine Deficiency Disorders
What is Food Fortification
Food fortification is primarily the addition of micronutrients such as iron, vitamin A, folic acid and iodine, to a food. The food may or may not normally contain these nutrients in it, however for the purpose of preventing or correcting a demonstrated deficiency of nutrients in specific population food fortification is followed.
Why Food Fortification
• Food fortification is, undeniably, one of the most cost effective strategies that are implementable on a large scale because the cost of fortification is usually much less than other nutrition deficiency correction techniques.
• Fortified food is more effective at lowering the risk of multiple deficiencies that can result from deficits in
food quality and quantity.
• Fortification doesn’t require any behavioral modification or compliance that is expected in the case of ‘supplementation’. To get the benefit of fortified food, it is not necessary to change the individual’s food habits and/or consumption pattern.
• The quantity of micronutrients added to food items is mostly small and well regulated, so the likelihood of an overdose of nutrients is unlikely.
• The process of fortification in no way interferes or alters the intrinsic characteristics of the food such as
taste,texture and appearance.
• The fortification process can be initiated quickly after the required set of regulations and standards are
formulated.Thus, the objective of improving the health of needy individuals/communities can be accomplished within a short span of time.
Fortification and Enrichment – Chalk and Cheese
Fortification and enrichment are often used synonymously; however they are two different concepts. Enrichment refers to the ‘restoration’ of one or more nutrients lost during the processing, handling or storage of food. Fortification refers to addition of nutrients beyond the naturally occurring nutrient levels. While voluntary fortification is common place in many countries, there others that need mandatory fortification of certain food items for the overall improvement of public health.
(Source: The Consumer Voice)
How are International Bodies Addressing Nutritional Deficiency
In April 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition from 2016 to 2025.UNICEF is currently supporting various national governments to develop food fortification programs for iron, folic acid and vitamin A. The UN program is also working to share the global fortification agenda and providing guidance on improving the monitoring systems.
Additionally, being a member of the Food Fortification Initiative Executive Management Team, UNICEF contributes to the global strategy for fortifying industrially milled wheat flour, maize flour, and rice.