A powerful solution: We know it works, but we can do more.
Fortification is one of the most cost-effective nutrition interventions – and is a great example of what can be accomplished through public private engagement (PPE). Iodising salt is perhaps the most well-known example around the globe, modelling studies estimate that more than 750 million cases of goitre have been prevented due to Universal Salt Iodization programs.
But fortification is more than salt iodisation – it is a way to add important micronutrients to staple foods to help fight micronutrient deficiency, often referred to as hidden hunger. The magnitude of micronutrient deficiency globally is enormous – but unfortunately, many countries do not have up-to-date estimates. Common deficiencies include iron, zinc, calcium, iodine, vitamin A, several B-vitamins, and vitamin D. Consequences of deficiency vary by nutrient and severity – but in general, have potential to impede growth, health, learning, and earning.
While we know fortification works, we still have a lot of work to do. Even where there are mandatory fortification programmes, a recent study suggests that less than half of the fortified foods in low and middle income countries meet the minimum fortification standards.
To get it right, we need better data on diets and deficiencies in populations to guide food and nutrient selection for fortification, clear regulations on production, packaging, and marketing, as well as increased consumer education to create demand for fortified products. So how can the public and private sectors work better together to help make sure fortified products are safe, affordable, and desirable?