The need for food fortification as a public health intervention
Fortification is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “the practice of deliberately increasing the content of one or more micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals) in a food or condiment to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.”
In today’s world, the need for proven, cost-effective large-scale food fortification strategies is increasingly evident. Large-scale food fortification has the potential to significantly increase essential micronutrient intakes for vulnerable population groups, delivering multiple benefits in the process. In 2021, for example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation observed that every dollar invested in food fortification generates US$27 in economic returns in terms of averted disease, improved earnings, and enhanced work productivity.
The full potential of large-scale food fortification remains a long way from realization, however. For it become a reality, three conditions must be fulfilled. Firstly, increased compliance with appropriate regulation is necessary throughout the food fortification value chain. Secondly, millers and food processors require more technical assistance to raise the level of their operations. Finally, a level playing-field needs to be ensured for all participants, so as to encourage reliable actors into this important sphere of economic activity.
DSM’s contribution to food fortification
Purpose-led private sector organizations such as DSM have an important role to play in delivering the scientific insights, production technologies and logistical capabilities to address these obstacles and help create an effective enabling environment for large-scale food fortification. DSM is involved in the fortification of three key staples: flour, oil and rice. Our interventions are delivered via long-standing partnerships with multiple actors in the value chain, from millers through UN agencies to governments and NGOs.
Facilitating increased compliance
For large-scale food fortification to gain rapid and significant traction, and the same time to make certain that beneficiaries and consumers are receiving access to adequately fortified products, product quality and traceability must be assured. We are currently involved in a Quality Assurance & Quality Control initiative whose objective is to make the fortified food value chain fully traceable by means of the digital collection and analysis of key metrics on quantities, characteristics and nutritional values. The end-goal is to ensure that consumers in the developing countries, starting with India, Nigeria and Bangladesh, are receiving the appropriate level of nutrients to support their health. With this in view, we contributed in 2022 to the design of data collection model for monitoring and steering the delivery of fortified oil and, in the future, of other fortified staples to those countries.
Providing technical assistance
In 2022, we also participated in many motivational workshops for millers and food processors in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, India and Bangladesh, giving presentations on a range of specialist topics with the aim of unlocking the potential of fortification. Together with Technoserve, we also co-hosted a technical rice fortification workshop for rice millers in Nigeria. We additionally delivered training sessions for millers in Kenya and Ethiopia, engaging millers to become champions of fortification, and participated in several workshops to present commercially viable routes to fortifying foods at the correct levels.
Ensuring a level playing-field
As a public health intervention that is simple in concept but complex to deliver, food fortification requires practical, effective and consistent legislation. Clear standards, regulations and guidelines are essential to ensure transparency and to provide peace of mind for all parties involved, from manufacturers through millers to the end-consumer. Effective legislation is the prerequisite for the creation of a level playing-field that will foster the activities of reliable suppliers who deliver a quality product. Alongside our provision of scientific insights and technical support, we also engage in advocacy to raise awareness of the benefits of large-scale quality food fortification and help generate demand for fortified foods.
Scaling up rice fortification with WFP
Ever since its inception in 2007, our partnership with WFP has made significant contributions to ending malnutrition worldwide. As one of the most effective, safe and cost-efficient solutions to address micronutrient deficiencies, scaling up rice fortification has been a key focus of the partnership since 2016.
We are involved at every stage of the rice fortification value chain. Our activities range from engaging in joint advocacy efforts together with partners and customers with a view to encouraging demand for fortified rice, through product innovation and development, to the provision of micronutrient fortificants and technical assistance.
The DSM-WFP partnership has invested in various activities to expand the production, availability and consumption of fortified rice in 20 countries, reaching over 15 million people annually by means of social safety nets. More than 45 metric tons of fortified rice to date have been distributed through in-kind donations. The DSM-WFP partnership has additionally helped more than 70 small and medium-sized enterprises in Bangladesh to build their capacity for producing fortified rice, directly supporting local food producers and processors. As a result, more than 7 million people in Bangladesh now have access to fortified rice via social safety nets.
Expansion into new areas
Large-scale food fortification has the potential to significantly improve the nutritional status of millions of vulnerable people worldwide, bringing measurable benefits to individuals and at the same time to societies at large. It is a proven cost-effective public health intervention, but stringent quality standards are required to ensure that it delivers on its promise. As a purpose-led end-to-end partner, we are committed to helping ensure that the potential of food fortification is fully realized.
1. Garrett G, Matthias D, Keats E, Mbuya M, Wouabe E. Doubling down on food fortification to fortify the future. The Optimist [newsletter]. October 24, 2019. Internet: https://www.gatesfoundation. org/ideas/articles/food-fortification-to-fortify-the-future.
- Q&A with Yannick Foing: The need for an affordable nutrition revolution
- COVID-19 and nutrient density: DSM sees more fortification demands across dairy, cereals, noodles
- New Estimates:1 in 2 Children and 2 in 3 Women Globally Affected by Micronutrient Deficiencies
- 50 Nutrition and Child Health Organisations Support Important WHO Initiative on Food Fortification
Yannick Foing currently serves as the Global Director - Nutrition Improvement at DSM. Yannick holds higher degrees in Molecular Biology, Public Health and Social Impact Strategy. Prior to joining DSM, Yannick was previously the Director of Partnerships and Fundraising for BIOVISION- the World Life Sciences Forum (France), a think tank organised by a non-profit group to foster collaboration between developed and emerging economies and improve access to essential medicines.
Yannick joined DSM in Singapore in 2012 and was initially responsible for the Asia Pacific region, driving the development of food fortification and supplementation programmes such as rice fortification.
Yannick has since been appointed in 2021 Global Director of DSM’s Nutrition Improvement unit, whose mission is to positively impact public health by developing and implementing effective and affordable nutrition solutions, leveraging their expertise and cross sectors partnerships to reach low income consumers and beneficiaries.