The global health burden of vitamin and mineral deficiencies is profound. For example, iron deficiency leads to debilitating anemia and contributes to women dying during childbirth. Insufficient folic acid causes devastating birth defects of the brain and spine. Zinc deficiency worsens lower respiratory tract infections, malaria and diarrheal disease.
But there is a simple, cost-effective solution. Each year more than 350 million tons of wheat flour, 350 million tons of rice, and 85 million tons of corn flour are consumed as food staples. Much of the grain’s nutritional value is lost as it is milled, but nutrition can be restored–and improved– through flour fortified with vitamins and minerals such as iron, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin B12. When commonly eaten foods are fortified, people do not have to change their shopping, cooking or eating habits. The foods they already enjoy simply have more nutrition.
The Food Fortification Initiative, founded in 2002, builds alliances between governments and international agencies, wheat and flour industries, and consumer and civic organizations to increase the vitamin and mineral content in flour. The network of partners, including CDC, is working to make grain fortification standard practice in industrial mills.
The most visible evidence of success is the decrease in birth defects of the brain and spine, such as spina bifida, when flour is fortified with folic acid. In 2016 one-third of the world’s population – 2.43 billion people lived in a country that mandated fortification of wheat flour, maize flour, and/or rice. Grain fortification is a simple, affordable way to dramatically impact global health.
Learn more at www.FFInetwork.org.