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Food fortification is the addition of vitamins and minerals to a staple foods or any other food that is consumed in fairly consistent and sufficiently large amounts. Generally, food fortification is undertaken at the industrial level, although food fortification can also take place at the household or community levels.

Deficiency of micronutrients and commensurate disorders such as anaemia affect large segments of India?s population. Though they can affect all age groups, but young children and women of reproductive age tend to be among those, most at risk of developing micronutrient deficiencies. More than half of all women in the age group of 15-49 years, approximately a quarter of all men in the same age group and seven out of every ten children between 6-59 months of age are anaemic in India 1. Further in India, the micronutrient intake for most micronutrients is less than the recommended dietary allowances across age groups; in most cases the gap varies between 50%-70%

Micronutrient deficiency disorders (MNDs) have many adverse effects on human health, not all of which are clinically evident. Even moderate levels of deficiency can have serious detrimental effects on human functioning along with profound implications for economic development and productivity, particularly in terms of potentially huge public health costs and the loss of human capital formation.

The control of micronutrient deficiencies is an essential part of the overall effort to fight hunger and malnutrition. Food based strategies namely dietary diversification and food fortification along with public health measures, nutrition education and supplementation are known evidence based approaches to address the situation.

Food fortification is a part of the package of interventions to address micronutrient deficiencies. The public health benefits of food fortification include:

  • Prevention or minimization of occurrence of micronutrient deficiency in a population of specific population groups.
  • Contribution to the correction of a demonstrated micronutrient deficiency in a population or specific population groups.
  • A potential for an improvement in nutritional status and dietary intakes that may be, or may become, suboptimal as a result of changes in dietary habits/lifestyles.

Food fortification offers a number of advantages:

  • Fortification requires neither changes in existing food patterns nor individual compliance.
  • Fortification is cost effective, especially if advantage can be taken of existing technology and delivery platforms.
  • Multi-micronutrient fortified foods are also better at lowering the risk of the multiple deficiencies that can result from several deficits in the food supply or a poor quality diet. It is usually possible to add one or serval micronutrients without adding substantially to the total cost of the food product at the point of manufacture.

Micronutrients are the nutrients which are required in miniscule amount by body but have important role to play in the body functions. Vitamins and minerals are classified as micronutrients. Micronutrients help in formation of hormones and enzymes.

Premix is mixture of micronutrients which is used to fortify any food.

Foods for fortification are chosen which are consumed by masses on large scale.

Micronutrients are added to foods at following three levels:

  • Staple Foods such as whole grain & milled cereals, oils & fats, sugar and salt.
  • Basic Foods such as breads, biscuits, packaged cereals and dairy products.
  • Value Added Foods such as condiments, beverages convenience foods and sweets and candies.

Experiences in countries that are already fortifying show that fortified foods are completely safe for consumers and that the benefits are enormous. The amount of vitamins and minerals added to a specific food is usually set at a proportion of the individual?s daily requirement and is usually less than one third of the total RDA. Fortification is always strictly monitored and, by implementing stringent quality control measures, companies can ensure that there is no excessive intake of a specific vitamin or mineral.

Fortification has no impact on the shelf-life of a product. The vitamins and minerals have a shelf life of their own although they do become less active over time.

No. When deciding on the appropriate premix for food fortification, only those vitamins and minerals are considered, which will not change the appearance, taste, texture and flavour of the food. In some cases encapsulated micronutrients may be used to prevent the interaction of micronutrients with either the atmosphere or with other micronutrients. The concept is based on the fact that the consumer buying behaviour should not be affected by the fortification process.

Cost of food fortification is miniscule, ranging from Rs. 30 to Rs.100 per metric ton, or, just about 3 - 10 paisa per kg of food, depending on the type and number of micronutrients added and the staple food that is being fortified.

Yes, premix is manufactured from vegetarian sources.

Premix should be stored at 20-25 degree centigrade temperature, in a cool, dry place. Preferably in an air conditioned room.

No, never. Premix has micronutrients in the range of million grams or million international units, which is toxic for the body if consumed directly.

There is 10-15% loss of the micronutrients at boiling or frying temperature; and necessary overages are built into the pre-mix to take care of micronutrient losses during storage, processing and cooking.

There is 10-15% loss of the micronutrients at boiling or frying temperature; and necessary overages are built into the pre-mix to take care of micronutrient losses during storage, processing and cooking.

Each batch of vitamin as well as premix comes along with a test report. The vitamins, minerals and premix manufacturers have their own highly sophisticated labs built in-house from where these test reports are issued. The products shipped are meant to use in pharma industry for production of supplements and have very high quality standards and if the end user wants to reconfirm this test report, they can send a representative sample of batch of vitamin or premix to a FSSAI and NABL accredited laboratory for analysis. General practice is to send the vitamin/premix sample every six months as normally the vitamin/premix validation happens through end fortified product analysis and thereby ensuring highest level of purity.

Vitamin analysis is tricky and needs highly sophisticated setup in terms of instruments and manpower. It depends on the end user whether they are ready to invest in such setup as otherwise they can get help from an external laboratory. There are quite a few reputed accredited laboratories that are functional who can perform required analysis on behalf of them. The test protocols are well defined by AOAC as well appears in each pharmacopoeia. A list of such accredited labs has already been notified by FSSAI on this website.

Fortification is generally done using premix which is custom designed to meet targeted levels. It is highly impossible to have excessive dose of vitamins through fortification as it is administered by production/ QC chemist in each industry. Premix addition is defined as a Critical Control Point in their Food Safety protocol and been always monitored thoroughly. FSSAI has come out with standards that help control the food safety during fortification.

The vitamins for mass fortification are added to meet 10-30% of the daily requirement and the purpose is that a person eats diversified diet and the gaps in micronutrient intake is filled through fortified staples. Unlike supplementation, food fortification is a preventive strategy. The Upper tolerable limit for vitamins and minerals are as high as 10-30 times the RDA for fat soluble vitamins. Excess of water soluble vitamins are washed out of the body.

Industry is following fortification for century and in India for the past six decades now. Vanaspati fortification started in early 50?s. Milk fortification started in early 80?s. Wheat flour fortification started in late 70?s. Processed foods like biscuits, candies, etc are being fortified for last two decades and the data is available with the industry as every manufacturer has their own distribution process and their packaging materials are designed accordingly to withstand extreme supply chain conditions.

India is a net importer of vitamins either in the form of intermediate or finished format. There are several converters of vitamins present in India who import either semi-finished formats or intermediates of vitamins in India and then do final conversion step here. Further, the value addition step is mostly done in India to make these highly potent vitamins suit ready to use applications.

Ministry of Finance has already fixed pricing of active ingredients. The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority has notified prices of over 350 bulk drugs which includes all vitamins. There is a Drug Price Control Order that exists in India for a while now which prevents manufacturers not to sell their product above the ceiling (notified) price. Pharma and nutraceutical industry demand of vitamins is far higher than the food fortification industry. There is no history of any cartelization happening in vitamin world in India in so far and no chances in future also.