Food Fortification

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Food Fortification methods of supplementation, standardization, restoration, enrichment, nutrification of foods. In other words, food fortification implies the addition of nutrients to meet nutrient needs of consumers. Fortified food must not change the natural properties of foods such as taste, colour, flavour, etc.

The first use of fortification of foods was suggested through the iodization of common salt by Boussingault in 1831 to cure and prevent goitre caused by the deficiency of iodine in food. Subsequently, the process of fortification of various foods with appropriate nutrients started to combat various deficiency diseases. Fortification of margarine with vitamin A was initiated in 1917 in Denmark and in 1940 in UK to control night blindness caused by the deficiency of vitamin A. Similarly, the addition of thiamine, nicotinic acid and iron to white flour and white bread was practiced to restore the nutritive value of wheat lost during milling and refining. Calcium was also added to bread to compensate for the loss of calcium.

Fortifying of foods with various nutrients demands several considerations. The added nutrients must not react with any other food ingredients and must be bio-available. The added nutrient must be stable and resistant to heat, moisture, oxygen, light and acidity or alkalinity. Furthermore, every country should formulate laws enforcing food fortification to monitor the process of production and marketing of the fortified foods in the country. In Bangladesh, goitre is an age-old iodine deficiency disease that causes a number of clinical and social problems. A programme has been undertaken by the government to fortify common salt with iodine.

Vitamin A deficiency is another major public health problem. Every year about 100,000 children suffer from xerophthalmia and about 30,000 become blind. But no suitable and adaptable method of fortification of foods with vitamin A has yet been developed. Since vitamin A is fat soluble, fortification of cooking oil with vitamin A has been tried. But vitamin A is heat labile and during cooking, heat destroys the vitamin. Now vitamin A capsules are being distributed among under 5 children so that they can meet their requirement. The deficiency of iron, sulphur, and zinc among pregnant and lactating mothers also demand special attention. Deficiency of B-vitamins is common and needs supplementation too. In many countries these nutrients are added to the breakfast cereals. [M Kabirullah]

See also malnutrition; food-borne disease; food adulteration;goiter.