Food Fortification – by HungryOwlOn March 17, 2017 by HungryOwl
It seems a buzz phrase at the moment – fortified this, that and the other. I have no idea why or when this became a necessity or is it just marketing spin?
I suppose firstly we ought to understand what food fortification is. The British Nutrition Foundation describes it as “the addition of nutrients to foods irrespective of whether or not the nutrients were originally present in the food”.
In the UK some foods are fortified by law such as white bread, others are fortified by the choice of the manufacturer such as breakfast cereals or soya milk. The most common additives are:
Vitamins – mostly A,C, D and sometimes B complex
Minerals – mostly Iron, Calcium and Zinc
Protein and/or amino acids.
Why add these nutrients to our foods? It is an easy way to ensure consumers are getting better levels of nutrition. For example in flour the up to 80% of the nutrition is in the outer kernel of grain. As white bread, became more popular it was decided by the Government in the UK as early as 1943 to fortify white flour to replace the ‘missing’ nutrition. In 1981 the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA) recommended that the addition of iron, calcium carbonate, thiamine and niacin should NO longer be required on the basis that dietary survey evidence – the UK Government of the day ignored the advice. Still today in the UK it is required to add calcium, iron, niacin and thiamine to be added at certain specified levels. In the UK we also add 10 μg vitamin D to 100 g to wheat flour.
Fortified breakfast cereals contribute 13% of the average daily vitamin D intake in men and women 20% and foods that are produced for vegans and vegetarians, such as Soya products, are often fortified voluntarily with vitamin B12 and Calcium.
Under EU regulations there are certain foods that cannot be fortified under this regulation including fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, pasteurised milk and alcoholic beverages containing more than 1.2% alcohol.
Following the consultation in May 2007, the FSA (Food Standards Agency) recommended the mandatory fortification of bread and flour with folic acid. However, new research published at about the same time raised concerns that folic acid might increase the risk of getting certain types of cancer.
Do consumers need to given these additives? The media is very keen to remind us constantly to eat our five fruit and vegetables a day, to cook fresh, to eat free range organic. So surely if we are doing all this aren’t we getting the goodness we need? Is food failing to provide us with the nutrition because it is now so intensively grown or GM modified that the food had less nutrition that the food grown by our forefathers?
What happens if we eat too much of these additives?
High levels of calcium can cause Kidney stones in extreme case.
High levels of Iron can cause vomiting, vomiting blood, diarrhea, abdominal pain, irritability, and drowsiness.
High levels of Niacin (B3) can cause flushed skin, dizziness and a rapid heart rate.
High levels of Thiamine (B1) can cause a rapid, irregular heartbeat and low blood pressure.
High levels of Vitamin D can cause poor appetite, nausea and vomiting. Weakness, frequent urination and kidney problems also may occur. It can also lead to added calcium in the blood.
So, the next time you see a product on the shelf in the supermarket advising they have fortified their product with added nutrition maybe you should ask yourself is this necessary for me and my family?