Fortification is the intentional addition of one or more micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to a food or condiment in order to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health. In addition to increasing the nutritional value of staple foods, the addition of micronutrients can restore micronutrients lost during processing.
Fortification is an intervention supported by evidence that aids in the prevention, reduction, and management of micronutrient deficiencies. It can be used to correct a proven micronutrient deficiency in the general population (mass or large-scale fortification) or in specific population groups (targeted fortification), such as children, pregnant women, and beneficiaries of social protection programmes.
Food fortification is a cost-effective strategy with proven economic, social, and health benefits. Despite ongoing debates globally and in some nations regarding the efficacy and safety of food fortification, the practise offers significant benefits across each of the main vehicles for food fortification (large-scale food fortification, biofortification, and point-of-use or home fortification), including reducing the prevalence of nutritional deficiencies and providing economic benefits to societies and economies.
When combined with social safety net programmes , such as school feeding programmes, distributions to the poor or vulnerable groups, food for work programmes, and food aid during emergency situations, food fortification has proven to be an effective means of delivering fortified food to vulnerable people and disseminating dietary information . For eg, In India, the government used three social safety net programmes to introduce wheat flour fortification among beneficiaries: Public Distribution System (PDS), Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Programme. In doing so, they found that by substituting wheat grain for fortified wheat flour dramatically increased the intake of micronutrients among beneficiaries, and that it was a very cost-effective approach.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) implemented the Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, in October 2016 to fortify Wheat Flour and Rice (with Iron, Vitamin B12, and Folic Acid), Milk and Edible Oil (with Vitamins A and D), and Double Fortified Salt (with Iodine and Iron) in an effort to reduce the high prevalence of micronutrient malnutrition in India. The +F logo has been designated to identify foods that have been fortified.
The office of the Prime Minister launched the National Nutrition Mission in early 2018 to combat vitamin and mineral deficiencies through the fortification of staple foods. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) developed specifications for fortified rice after expert consultations that included clinical evidence from leading academic institutions in India. Rice is the most effective vehicle to reach the poorest among the various staples available in the country. Since then, rice fortification has gained momentum, and fifteen states have currently drafted plans to begin implementing it via MDM, ICDS, and PDS.
Globally, widespread nutritional deficiencies are a problem. In India, micronutrient deficiencies are a serious problem, posing grave health risks for vulnerable populations, such as women of reproductive age and children who are frequently underweight and anaemic. As mentioned previously, food fortification has numerous benefits. The central and state governments of India have already implemented plans to combat malnutrition.
The focus today has shifted from quantitative need to qualitative need. Hunger is a challenging issue, but in modern times the issue of hidden hunger (Hidden hunger is the presence of multiple micronutrient deficiencies particularly iron, zinc, iodine, and vitamin A, which can result from consuming an energy-dense but nutrient-poor diet without a deficit in energy intake) has also gained prominence.