Food fortification is the addition of vitamins and minerals to staple foods to prevent micronutrient deficiencies. Fortified foods provide a preventive benefit to the consumer and help to prevent diseases, strengthen immune systems and improve cognitive development.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals, required in small quantities but have a vital role in maintaining normal functioning of the body, good health, and growth and development. Examples include iron, folic acid, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin A and vitamin D.
Wheat flour fortification means the addition of nutrients including, but not limited to, iron, folic acid, zinc and vitamin B12 during the grinding process of wheat. The purpose is to provide these micronutrients in our body on a daily basis when they are not readily available in the routine diet.
Edible oil/ghee fortification means the addition of vitamins and minerals including, but not limited to, vitamin A and vitamin D, during the refining process of edible oil/ghee. The purpose is to ensure essential micronutrients are provided to our body on a daily basis when they are not readily available in the routine diet.
The best source of essential micronutrients is from a balanced and nutritious diet but this may not be possible for a number of reasons, such as affordability for many poorer people and availability in local markets. Food fortification is a means to ensure that diets contain these micronutrients and reduce micronutrient deficiencies.
Fortified food helps:
- Keep the body healthy and energetic
- Protect against a number of diseases
- Improve learning and cognitive abilities of children
- Physical development of children
- Improve the work performance of adults
- Prevent mental and physical birth defects
No. Fortified food is not for the treatment of micronutrient malnutrition. It is a preventive measure to keep our body healthy and prevent micronutrient malnutrition occurring in the first place.
No. There are no risks in taking fortified wheat flour and edible oil/ghee. No side effects on health have been reported in the published studies on food fortification.
Mainly pregnant women, lactating women, women of reproductive age and children. However, any person can suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. Everyone can benefit from fortified foods, especially fortified wheat flour and edible oil/ghee.
Yes. Iron and folate acid tablets are given to particular groups of people based on symptoms displayed. Pregnant women are given folate tablets throughout their pregnancy to ensure the healthy development of the fetus. Fortified wheat flour is an effective way to reach everyone in the population to improve and maintain health and as the additional dose from consuming fortified products is small there is no risk in taking both at the same time.
Children between the ages of six months and five years are given a supplement of vitamin A twice a year to meet the deficiencies in Pakistan, while fortified edible oil/ghee is a preventive measure for everyone to maintain good health. There is no risk to children who take both at the same time.
Fortification of staple foods provides a simple and cost effective way to improve the intake of key nutrients on a daily basis. Supplements can also provide additional health benefits when taken either separately or in combination with fortified foods when taken consistently as directed.
Foods that naturally contain most of the important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals –such as meat, fish, eggs and fruits – are not widely affordable or available to many people. Fortified wheat flour and edible oil/ghee are a cost effective way of providing these nutrients at source, so that staple foods contain the essential nutrients required for health.
Wheat contains a few natural micronutrients, however, they can be removed during the milling process. Therefore, food fortification replaces these lost micronutrients.
Absolutely safe. It is highly unlikely that anyone will get an excess amount of vitamins and minerals from fortified foods. Studies and research in countries with long histories of fortification have established overwhelming evidence of the protective effect of fortification. Standards for the levels of fortificants in food are carefully set to avoid excessive intake of each of the nutrients by consumers.
No. Fortified wheat flour and edible oil/ghee have exactly the same taste, texture, aroma and colour as non-fortified wheat flour and edible oil/ghee. Tests have shown that consumers detect no difference whatsoever.
All fortified food packaging carries a distinctive logo. Don’t forget to look out for the wheat flour fortified and edible oil/ghee fortified logos.
You can get fortified wheat flour and edible oil/ghee from your nearby retailers and wholesalers’ shops.
You should write a letter or apply to your District Coordination Officer, district traders’ association and District Food Controller. You can also directly ask your nearby retailer or wholesaler to stock fortified wheat and edible oil/ghee.