Why are foods fortified?

Fortified foods make an important contribution to diets all over the world. Foods may be fortified for the following reasons:

Restoration of lost nutrients

During the processing stage of some foods, nutrients may be lost. These nutrients are then added back into the foods through fortification.

For example, B group vitamins thiamine (B1) and niacin (B3) must be added back into white and brown flour as they are removed, along with the bran and germ of the grain, during the milling of the wheat.

Substitution of nutrients for similar products

Some products consumed by people following specific diets are enriched with nutrients in order to prevent deficiency disorders.

For example, Vitamin B12 and calcium are added to soya-based products to meet the needs of vegans and in order to prevent osteoporosis in later life. This is important as plant-based foods do not contain this vitamin.

To enrich staple foods with nutrients

Foods are fortified, whether that be mandatory or voluntary, in order to help improve the nutritional status of a population.

Nutrients are added to some food products in order to simply make the product a more valuable source of nutrients.

For example, Vitamin A and D must be added to margarine by law, so it matches the nutrients in butter.

Another example is that breakfast cereals are fortified in order to help individuals, especially children, meet their nutritional requirements.

To add nutrients to foods for marketing purposes

Some food products may have nutrients added to them to make them more appealing to consumers.

For example, some bread products have omega 3 added.

Effects of fortification

The potential effects of fortification must be considered to ensure high consumption of food products do not mask any nutritional deficiencies.

For example, research has shown that high intakes of folic acid may mask Vitamin B12 anaemia in older people, and so the fortification of bread with folic acid has been under debate.

However, the mandatory fortification of bread and flour with folic acid still applies at 240 micrograms per 100g of flour to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) in babies.