The human body requires certain nutrients to perform its many functions. These include amino acids, vitamins, minerals, sugars, and other chemical substances. Many of these can be obtained naturally by consuming a balanced diet. Where there are gaps in this, for various reasons, people often opt to buy nutritional supplements and other fortified food types. The growth of the fortified food market has seen it expand into many new different food areas. As people get a better understanding of their nutritional needs and deficiency and continue to explore new diets, this market is only going to grow further.
What Are Fortified Foods?
Fortifies foods are foods that have had their nutritional content deliberately enhanced. This can be with added vitamins or other nutrients. This is usually indicated on the packet labeling. A common example of this is milk enriched with vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones. This can be obtained from dairy products such as milk. If someone lacks in vitamin D, however, they may want a little more of it in their milk than is available in whole milk or 2 percent milk. This is where the milk fortified with vitamin D comes in. Parents are more concerned about their children developing healthy teeth and bones, and this product offers a solution to often undetected vitamin deficiencies.
Food fortification or enrichment is done by the manufacturers of the food items. It can also be carried out at the level of public health and government policy. The goal is to ensure that people get the right nutrition and avoid easily preventable nutrient deficiencies. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) recognize the important role that food enrichment or fortification can play on the global health scale. Food fortification is included as one of their four strategies to see a reduction in nutrient deficiencies globally.
According to FAO, some of the most common types of fortified foods include cereals and other cereal-based food items. Dairy products like milk, as well as oils and fats are also included in the list. Infant formulas, tea, and other beverage items are also commonly fortified with different micro-nutrients. All these and other measures are needed to tackle the widespread issue of global undernutrition. It is estimated that as many as around 3-5 million people die each year because of nutrient deficiency.
Some Criticisms of Fortified Foods
Fortified foods can play an important role in global nutrition, but their increasing use has not been without criticism. The critics question the impact that these foods can make. Some people want to know if this is anything more than a marketing gimmick to drive up the selling price of foods. To some, the additional nutrient levels are not high enough to make a significant difference for someone who has a real nutrient deficiency.
Scientists, nutritionists, food manufacturers, and policymakers all have to work together to tackle these important questions. Nutrient deficiency is an important health concern that cannot be handled lightly. Food packaging must be careful not to over promise on what the fortified foods can do. At the same time, the benefits of having added nutrients in the food consumed daily must be acknowledged.
Other Examples of Fortified Foods
There are many other examples of commonly fortified foods. Some of these are so widely used that it’s easy to forget that they also fall in this class. Iodized salt is a common example. Iodine was introduced into table salt to help deal with iodine deficiency, which causes goiter and other health concerns. Other examples include fluoride added to water, niacin added to bread, and folic acid added to flour.