The Whys of Fortification
This column is written by Dr. John Michaelides of the Guelph Food Technology Centre (519) 821 1246, www.gftc.ca
Question: What is fortification of foods, and how does it affect the flour and baking industry?
Answer: Fruits, vegetables, cereals, milk as well as other foods, in their raw state, contain vitamins and minerals that the human body requires in small quantities in order to function properly and remain healthy. For example, oranges and other citrus fruits contain vitamin C, bananas contain potassium, spinach contains iron, etc. The many varieties of grains and pulses available to the industry also contain vitamins and minerals. These components, which are essential for human health, are often reduced or eliminated during the various processing methods for foods such as cooking, drying, freezing or dry or wet milling, etc. Fortification is basically the addition of vitamins and minerals to foods by the food processors. Such addition may be mandatory or voluntary, depending on the case.
For example, enriched white flour, by law, has to be fortified or enriched with various vitamins and minerals as shown in table 1 below.
Table 1: Mandatory Enrichment Requirements for White Wheat Flour and White Bread in Canada.
In addition, voluntarily white wheat flour may contain other vitamins and minerals such as 0.31 milligrams of vitamin B6, 1.3 milligrams of d-pantothenic acid and 190 milligrams of magnesium per 100 grams of flour as well as calcium compounds that can provide 140 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams of flour.
Furthermore, in order to ensure that whole wheat flour contains the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, the law requires that it shall contain the natural constituents of the wheat berry to the extent of no less than 95 per cent of the total weight of the wheat from which it is milled.
Enriched white bread is also required by law to contain the same vitamins and minerals as the white wheat flour but at lower levels as shown in table 1. The levels of mandatory vitamin and iron enrichment are set much higher in flour than the bread to ensure that losses occurring during baking are compensated for, and to account for the differences in moisture levels of bread and flour.
White enriched bread also may contain 0.14 milligrams of vitamin B6, 0.60 milligrams of d-pantothenic acid, 90 milligrams of magnesium and 66 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams of bread. In addition, enriched bread or enriched white bread can only be made from dough in which the only wheat flour used is the enriched flour as above. The enriched bread must contain at least two parts of skim milk solids or four parts of dried whey powder by weight of flour used. Other sources of protein are also permitted, such as from peas or soybeans, but they have to provide 0.5 parts by weight of protein per 100 grams of flour used.
The reasons foods are fortified in Canada are numerous and are controlled by the Food and Drug Regulations. First, the fortification of foods is a means by which nutrients lost during the manufacturing processes are replaced. Fortification can also act as a public health intervention in preventing certain chronic diseases. For example, the fortification of foods with calcium and vitamin D will help the buildup of strong bones and prevent the onset of osteoporosis, and a great success story in fortification is the addition of folic acid in flour, resulting in a tremendous reduction of neural tube defects (NTD) or spina bifida and other birth defects. Fortification of cereals, and specifically wheat flour with folic acid, was introduced in Canada in 1997 and became mandatory in November 1998. A study in Ontario has shown that, since this type of fortification was introduced, the incidents of open neural birth defects have been reduced by more than 50 per cent from 1.13 to 0.58 per 1,000 pregnancies. Many countries, such as the U.S., Chile and the Czech Republic, have introduced mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid, and the U.K. and other EU nations are now considering doing likewise. A recent expert report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has recommended that it should be mandatory that all flour in the U.K. be fortified with folic acid. Ireland, New Zealand and Australia are also considering the mandatory addition of folic acid to foods.
Regulatory bodies and health authorities are also considering the possible negative effects of fortification. For this reason, certain specific limits are set on what nutrients can be added to food, how much can be added and which foods cannot be fortified based on the discretion of the manufacturers. These limits ensure that Canadians receive the necessary amounts of vitamins and minerals in their diet without being exposed to dangerously high levels. For example, if women consume high amounts of vitamin A (beyond the naturally-occurring levels) just prior to or during pregnancy, this can lead to certain birth defects. We have to bear in mind that vitamins and minerals in their pure form are chemicals and their addition to foods must be done responsibly and serve the purpose of providing health benefits and not to endanger people.
For more information, or fee-for-service help with product or process development needs please contact GFTC at 519-821-1246, by fax at 519-836-1281, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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