Populations with widespread multiple micronutrient deficiencies, fortification of staple food is one of the best investments which can make for securing its future because good nutrition is essential for a child’s healthy growth and development, their capacity to learn, and capacity to earn, and be productive without being left behind. As the idea behind fortification isn’t to “cure” micronutrient deficiencies, rather it’s to prevent deficiencies and move people and whole population towards consuming recommended amounts of micronutrients through fortified foods.
Flour is one of the most consumed staples in the world and thus serves as an effective mode to propagate the concept of fortification. Most micronutrients are highly compatible with flour. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), fortification is “the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, ie. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in a food irrespective of whether the nutrients were originally in the food before processing or not, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and to provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health”, whereas enrichment is defined as “synonymous with fortification and refers to the addition of micronutrients to a food which are lost during processing”. Fortification of flour offers multiple benefits to consumers, satisfying caloric requirements as well as alleviating the problem of hidden hunger. Fortification of wheat flour is a cost-effective tool for reducing micronutrient deficiencies and prevent birth defects such as neural tube defects that occur due to folic acid deficiency.
Vitamins B9, vitamin B12 and iron are the most preferred and commonly used micronutrients to fortify flour although a range of other micronutrients such as zinc, vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and pyridoxine may also be chosen. Folic acid is also one of the most preferred micronutrients chosen for fortification as it is very compatible with flour and also helps eliminate neural tube defects. Fortification of flour with folic acid has been mandated in almost 80 countries, worldwide substantiating the importance and preventive action taken by the respective regions.