Food fortification is adding vitamins and minerals to foods to prevent nutritional deficiencies. The nutrients regularly used in fortification prevent diseases, strengthen immune systems, and improve productivity and cognitive development.
In Ethiopia, recently the standards to fortify wheat flour and edible oil were endorsed, while the salt iodization standard was already developed earlier.
Wheat flour for example is primarily fortified to prevent nutritional anaemia, prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, increase productivity and improve economic progress.
In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals; fortifying commonly eaten foods is a step toward addressing these.
Fortification is successful because it makes frequently eaten foods more nutritious without relying on consumers to change their habits.
Vitamins and minerals are commonly used in fortification, while each country sets standards to include the specific nutrients its population needs.
Fortification as part of a country’s nutrition strategy is supported by global organizations such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and Nutrition International.
Following are details showing how eight of the SDGs can be addressed with grain fortification, which most often includes adding iron, zinc, and the B vitamins folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 to wheat flour, maize flour, or rice. The partnership called for in SDG 17 is also a critical component of successful fortification programs.
SDG 1. No poverty
The capacity for physical work is hampered when people are anaemic. Nutrient deficiencies that can contribute to anaemia include iron, riboflavin, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin B12. Currently, more than 80 countries have legislation to add one or more of these nutrients to wheat flour, maize flour, and/or rice. Adding these nutrients to commonly consumed grains is one step toward improving productivity and thereby reducing poverty.
SDG 2. Zero hunger
Fortification is one of the most effective nutrition interventions in preventing nutritional deficiencies, thus working to reach SDG 2.2.
SDG 3. Good health and well-being
A huge advantage of fortifying with folic acid is the reduced risk of birth defects of the brain and spine. Anaemia during pregnancy increases the risk of maternal and perinatal mortality. Anaemia during pregnancy also contributes to low birth-weight infants,
Zinc is a mineral that promotes immunity, resistance to infection, and proper growth and development of the nervous system, and is integral to healthy pregnancy outcomes. Zinc deficiencies increase risk of malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhoea.
SDG 4. Quality education
Poor health in childhood can lead to reductions in educational achievement. While iron deficiency limits cognitive development, children who have adequate iron have more energy to participate in classroom exercises, and they are more mentally prepared to master the material.
SDG 5. Gender equality
Anaemia rates in females are much higher than males. While anaemia rates decrease for males by the end of puberty, they remain high for females through reproductive years due to menstruation.
Therefore, reducing anaemia by fortifying with iron contributes to boosting females’ relative academic performance and worker productivity and helps achieve gender equality.
SDG 8. Decent work and economic growth
The 2017 Global Nutrition Report states there is a 16:1 benefit to cost ratio in fortifying foods in low and middle-income countries.
In a review of the World Bank report An Investment Framework for Nutrition, consultant Julia Dayton Eberwein noted that investing US$ 10 per child per year above current spending for nutrition-specific interventions would have enormous impacts. She wrote that “Every dollar invested in this package of interventions would yield between US$ 4 and US$ 35 in economic returns, making investing in early nutrition one of the best value-for-money development actions.”
SDG 10. Reduced inequalities
Low- and middle-income countries bear most of the burden in nutrient deficiencies. This increases the risk of death, morbidity, and susceptibility to negative health outcomes that could be mitigated. The 2015 Global Nutrition Report presents stunting rates by wealth quintile, showing how current inequality predicts future inequality.
Each dollar spent on reducing chronic undernutrition has a thirty-fold payoff, according to the 2012 Copenhagen Consensus. The 2008 Copenhagen Consensus ranked fortification as the third greatest opportunity to fight development challenges, highlighting the opportunities for iron fortification.
SDG 11. Sustainable cities
More people now live in cities than rural areas, and 30% of urban dwellers live in slum conditions. Urban residents are likely to benefit from fortification of industrially milled flour and rice. Consequently, grain fortification is an opportunity to improve the nutrient intake of a significant proportion of the population, including the urban poor who shop in informal markets.
SDG 17. Partnerships for the goals
While adding essential nutrients to food addresses the above SDGs, maintaining a successful fortification program requires the partnerships called for in this goal. Effective partnerships are essential for food fortification because no sector can be successful on its own.
The Food Fortification Initiative brings partners together with the goal of reducing vitamin and mineral deficiencies through food fortification. In doing so, the partners are also taking steps to address nine of the 17 SDGs.
From: Food Fortification Network – www.ffinetwork.org