What is food fortification and why is it important?
Vitamins and minerals (also called micronutrients) are only needed in small amounts, but without them our bodies can’t function properly. For example, vitamin A is necessary for eyesight, immune function and reproduction.
Iron is needed to transfer oxygen from our lungs to our tissues. Iodine is vital for a child’s mental development.
The World Health Organization estimates that 2 billion people across the globe are deficient in one or more essential vitamin or mineral.
The effects of hidden hunger can be devastating: impaired brain development, weakened immunity against disease, blindness and even death. Every year, deficiencies in iron, zinc, iodine, and vitamins A, D and B contribute to the deaths of approximately one million children. Hidden hunger also perpetuates poverty. It costs individuals more than 10% of lifetime earnings, which translates to annual national losses of an estimated US$20-US$30 billion.
people suffering from micronutrient
deficiencies often show no signs or symptoms – so this form of malnutrition is
frequently called ‘hidden hunger’.
Food fortification is the addition of vitamins and minerals to commonly eaten foods to make them more nutritious. It started in the 1920s in Europe and North America with the addition of micronutrients to salt, margarine and milk. In these regions, many conditions associated with micronutrient deficiencies – such as rickets, cretinism and goitre – have been eliminated. In 2008 and 2012, the Copenhagen Consensus (a panel of expert economists) ranked food fortification among the top three international development priorities in terms of cost-benefit ratio.
There are three different types of food fortification:
Read our Food Fortification 101 series to learn more:
Why does the EU support food fortification?
The EU believes that nutritious diets should be available and affordable to everyone. It also invests in fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food systems. Food fortification is a useful strategy to improve the diets of vulnerable populations.
The EU is also aligned behind the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 17 Sustainable Development Goads (SDGs) are a global roadmap for a peaceful and prosperous world, with human wellbeing on a healthy planet at its core.
Many of the SDGs can be addressed with food fortification. Therefore, the EU supports the scale up of food fortification programmes, and established 2FAS to reinforce this effort.
SDG 1 No poverty: Childhood anaemia is associated with a 2.5% drop in wages in adulthood, affecting economic growth.
SDG 2 Zero hunger: Fortification is one of the most effective interventions to prevent nutritional deficiencies.
SDG 3 Good health and wellbeing: Anaemia during pregnancy increases the risk of maternal and perinatal mortality.
SDG 4 Quality education: Iron deficiency causes cognitive deficits and developmental delays.
SDG 5 Gender equality: Anaemia is much more prevalent among women. Fortifying with iron boosts females’ relative academic performance and worker productivity.
SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth: Low- and middle-income countries lose between 2% and 5% of their gross domestic product to micronutrient malnutrition. Reducing this cost could help bring communities out of poverty.
SDG 17 Partnerships for the goals: Successful fortification programmes require multiple partnerships across both private and public sectors.
Download our brochure to learn more about 2FAS and the EU:
Frequently asked questions
Are fortified foods artificial? Isn’t it better just to eat a balanced diet? Can you consume too many vitamins and minerals?
We answer some of the most frequent questions about food fortification in our FAQs:
There are many other actors working in food fortification. Their websites are useful sources of further information:
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation www.gatesfoundation.org
Food Fortification Initiative (FFI) www.ffinetwork.org
Home Fortification Technical Advisory Group www.hftag.org
International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IF) www.ifglobal.org
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) www.ifpri.org
International Potato Center (CIP) www.cipotato.org/programs/sweetpotato-agri-food-systems-program
Nutrition International www.nutritionintl.org
Smarter Futures www.smarterfutures.net