Why do we need it?

Food For­ti­fi­ca­tion

Consumer Voice - - Contents -

Mi­cronu­tri­ent de­fi­cien­cies af­fect not only the poor. Less ob­vi­ous but nonethe­less im­por­tant are the ef­fects of to­day’s life­styles in the de­vel­oped world on nu­tri­tional sta­tus. There are in­creased food choices, yes, but low mi­cronu­tri­ent den­si­ties. The hec­tic pace of life can lead to in­ad­e­qua­cies in the diet, so that even in well-en­dowed so­ci­eties peo­ple are in­creas­ingly look­ing to for­ti­fied foods to make up the de­fi­cien­cies. Food for­ti­fi­ca­tion has for one rea­son or the other emerged as a non­com­pli­cated way to im­prove the nu­tri­tional value of a diet. It has been ap­plied for decades to im­prove the nu­tri­tional sta­tus of tar­get pop­u­la­tions in var­i­ous coun­tries by adding value to sim­ple, af­ford­able sta­ple foods. In­deed, in many coun­tries for­ti­fi­ca­tion of sta­ples such as wheat flour is manda­tory, to re­place nu­tri­ents lost through food pro­cess­ing or to re­duce the preva­lence of iden­ti­fied de­fi­cien­cies.

To keep up in to­day’s busy world, peo­ple are mul­ti­task­ing, and when it comes to keep­ing up with their daily nu­tri­tional needs, they ex­pect their foods to mul­ti­task as well. Ac­cord­ing to the 2009 In­ter­na­tional Food In­for­ma­tion Coun­cil (IFIC) Func­tional Foods/Foods for Health Con­sumer Trend­ing Sur­vey, the great ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans be­lieve that food pro­vides ben­e­fits be­yond ba­sic nu­tri­tion and are in­ter­ested in how cer­tain foods or food com­po­nents can im­prove or main­tain their health.

To­day, many peo­ple can iden­tify a spe­cific food and/or food com­po­nent and its as­so­ci­ated health ben­e­fit. His­tor­i­cally food for­ti­fi­ca­tion, such as iodized

salt or vi­ta­min D-for­ti­fied milk, has served as a pub­lic health mea­sure to ad­dress pop­u­la­tion-wide nu­tri­ent de­fi­cien­cies. Now, there are cal­cium- and vi­ta­min D-for­ti­fied juices, breads for­ti­fied with omega-3 fatty acids, and veg­etable-oil spreads with plant sterols avail­able for health-con­scious con­sumers search­ing for foods with ad­di­tional health ben­e­fits. Th­ese types of foods con­tain added nu­tri­ents and in­gre­di­ents that may pro­mote or sup­port over­all health and well­ness in a va­ri­ety of ways across many dif­fer­ent body sys­tems in­clud­ing heart, bone, di­ges­tive, eye and brain; weight man­age­ment; and in­creased en­ergy and im­mune health, among oth­ers.

Ideally, foods not only must meet con­sumer needs and pref­er­ences but also ad­dress nu­tri­tion, reg­u­la­tory, safety and tech­ni­cal con­straints. The Euro­pean Food Safety Author­ity (EFSA), World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) and sev­eral coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States, United King­dom, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and Canada, fol­low sim­i­lar guid­ing prin­ci­ples when it comes to their for­ti­fi­ca­tion poli­cies.

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