Vitamin A, iron, folate and iodine deficiency disorders are the primary micronutrient deficiencies of public health concern. Vitamin A is critical for preventing childhood blindness and protecting the immune system, iron helps prevent anaemia and folic acid can prevent neural tube birth defects. Severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy detrimentally affects maternal thyroid function and child neurobehavioral development.
These disorders are holding entire communities back – children don't develop fully, parents can't work efficiently, and too much money is spent on the medical treatment of nutrition-related health problems. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), created by the UN in 2002, is the only global organization with an exclusive focus on malnutrition. To date, GAIN has helped 811 million people, about 369 million of whom are women and children, to access affordable, nutritious food.
Over the years we have developed a deep understanding of what it takes to tackle this complex problem and focused our mission on the delivery of innovative solutions to malnutrition that have a large-scale impact. One of them is food fortification.
What is food fortification?
Food fortification – the practice of adding small and safe amounts of micronutrients to staple foods and condiments – is a powerful nutrition success story that is reaching millions across the world. It is simple and among the world’s most cost-effective development interventions.
The fortification of staples and condiments has been practiced in North America and Europe since the 1920s, and it has greatly contributed to the virtual eradication of pellagra, goitre, beriberi and scurvy.
The World Bank and the Copenhagen Consensus(2) ranked food fortification as one of the best investments in development in terms of cost effectiveness, since it improves people's health, while indirectly boosting productivity and economic progress.