Food fortification or enrichment is the process of adding micronutrients (essential trace elements and vitamins) to food. It can be carried out by food manufacturers, or by governments as a public health policy which aims to reduce the number of people with dietary deficiencies within a population. The predominant diet within a region can lack particular nutrients due to the local soil or from inherent deficiencies within the staple foods; addition of micronutrients to staples and condiments can prevent large-scale deficiency diseases in these cases.
As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), fortification refers to "the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, ie. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in a food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and to provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health", whereas enrichment is defined as "synonymous with fortification and refers to the addition of micronutrients to a food which are lost during processing".
Food fortification has been identified as the second strategy of four by the WHO and FAO to begin decreasing the incidence of nutrient deficiencies at the global level. As outlined by the FAO, the most commonly fortified foods are cereals and cereal-based products; milk and dairy products; fats and oils; accessory food items; tea and other beverages; and infant formulas. Undernutrition and nutrient deficiency is estimated globally to cause the deaths of between 3 and 5 million people per year.
Main methods of food fortification:
- Commercial and industrial fortification (wheat flour, corn meal, cooking oils)
- Biofortification (breeding crops to increase their nutritional value, which can include both conventional selective breeding, and genetic engineering)
- Home fortification (example: vitamin D drops)