fortification is mandatory by law and where businesses receive support or incentives to fortify. Enforcement and compliance need to be strengthened to ensure the effectiveness of fortification programs, and there is a strong need for the private sector to be the driving force for this change. Food fortification should be seen as an opportunity for industry to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and may at times provide industry a competitive edge.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), one of the few global organizations with an exclusive focus on malnutrition, has developed a deep understanding of what it takes to tackle this complex problem through food fortification, one of the main nutrition interventions that has impact at scale. Through developing large-scale food fortification programs, GAIN supports countries to build, improve and sustain their national fortification programs. GAIN has proven that multistakeholder partnerships – when governments, civil society and business work together – are critical to success. For example National Fortification Alliances enhance communication and collaboration, creating an enabling environment for support and advice on the process. GAIN’s work to fortify staple foods and condiments with essential micronutrients reaches more than one billion people in 40 countries worldwide. GAIN-supported flour fortification programs have helped reduce neural tube defects in South Africa through flour fortification with folate and iron deficiency anaemia in Nigeria, Jordan and Morocco through flour fortification with iron. In 2010, GAIN and PATH launched a partnership project with Urbano Rice to introduce affordable multiple-micronutrient 56 | July 2016 - Milling and Grain
fortified rice in the Brazilian market, while raising awareness of the benefits of fortified products. Urbano, one of the leading rice millers in Brazil noted compelling business opportunities in developing a fortified product, including competitive differentiation in a flat growth market; brandbuilding as an innovative and socially conscious company; and expansion of the product line into export markets (e.g., Costa Rica and Peru). Urbano consequently embraced fortification as part of its marketing strategy, coinvesting substantially in store collateral, tasting booths, and other marketing materials to promote the product. Through innovative social marketing, awareness of fortified rice went from a very low level to almost one third of the exposed market in a span of only 12 months. In terms of sales, fortified rice has shown consistent growth since its introduction and faster consumer uptake than comparable new rice subcategories in Brazil. Thanks to the great support of Urbano, this project has reached an estimated two million consumers. More recently, GAIN, with the support of USAID, has launched the Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asian Republics Regional Fortification Initiative, which aims to build capacity for food fortification in order to tackle micronutrient deficiencies across the region, and in particular for Afghanistan. The primary source of food energy intake in the region is wheat flour. GAIN works primarily with Kazakhstan, the world’s number one exporter of milled flour, to encourage fortification prior to export to Afghanistan and other neighbors. With the support of its partner agencies, GAIN also works to harmonise import-export policies and fortification standards within a regional initiative such as this, playing a role in the trade environment to increase commerce and regional connectivity.
While food fortification is not the only solution – dietary diversity and affordable access to nutritious foods remain crucial in the fight against malnutrition — it is a powerful tool that enables schoolchildren to learn better, prepares mothers for healthy pregnancies and prevents diseases that burden healthcare systems. As the world population grows and urbanizes, the role of industrially produced foods that can be fortified will continue to increase. The challenge now is to achieve adequate and safe fortification across the board, otherwise people will continue to be left behind. As the poorest and most marginalized people rightly demand more equitable development, there is a need to ensure access and affordability of more nutritious food across all communities.