What is it?
Fortified food is any food where micronutrients have been deliberately added in order to enhance the nutrition your body needs for optimal health. These micronutrients include vitamins and minerals (including trace elements), which are essential in a healthy diet and to prevent conditions such as high blood pressure, indigestion, diabetes type 2, etc. While these conditions are still common today, fortified food programmes have basically eradicated diseases such as goiter, beriberi, rickets, and pellagra.
Is it new?
The concept of food fortification has been practised since the early 20th century when people realised that certain illnesses related to nutrient deficiency can be combated by adding nutrients to common foods. For example, sodium iodide has been added to salt since the 1920s and has led to the near eradication of goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland). Similarly, Vitamin D has been added to milk for many decades. This vitamin enables the body to better absorb the calcium in milk and thus prevent diseases linked to weakened bone structure, like bowed legs. In the 1930s, many people in the USA fell ill and even died due to a shortage of B vitamins in refined flour. Bakers started adding high-vitamin yeasts and synthetic B-vitamins to bread, which led to the decline of diseases related to vitamin deficiency, such as diarrhoea, dermatitis, dementia, etc. In fact, the US army purchased only these enriched flours for their soldiers in World War 2. Ever since the benefits of food fortification were acknowledged, it has become common practice all over the world. However, the process has evolved significantly since the early 20th century and now includes a wider variety of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and essential amino acids. This means that whereas fortified food was previously intended to provide humans with basic nutrition, it has now grown to make people stronger, smarter, and healthier.
Who can benefit?
Fortified food can benefit people from developed countries who live a rushed life and often live off junk food, but it also benefits low-income people from developing countries who simply don’t have access to foods that contain the nutrients required for a healthy body. In the latter case, staple foods like flour or rice can be fortified with the essential nutrients found in foodstuffs like dairy products and meat, and thus eliminate the need to transport these perishable products. This makes fortified food a very cost-effective way to bring essential nutrients to people in rural areas. Even corporations can benefit from having staff of sound body and mind, who will be more productive on a diet of fortified food. Schools feeding their learners fortified food will also find that learners’ can improve their learning ability and also perform better in extramural activities such as sport. The benefits of fortified food go well beyond a specific demographic and basically anyone can benefit from it, but since it is a very inexpensive way to provide a balanced diet, it is especially beneficial for low-income groups.
Where can I find it?
In order to truly benefit people from all walks of life, especially low-income people in rural areas, fortified food should be widespread and readily available. Products such as Nhlayisa Power Supply’s Instant Porridge and Instant Maegu (amaHewu) can be found anywhere from rural spaza shops to big retail outlets such as Spar. Besides being available all over South Africa, Nhlayisa Power Supply is also available in neighbouring African countries.
In a rural context, 48% of rural South Africans are malnourished, and in an urban context, companies lose up to 20% in productivity due to malnutrition, so we are a country that can truly benefit from fortified food. While we continue experiencing such problems, companies like Nhlayisa Power Supply will continue to fight the scourge of malnutrition and provide South Africans from all walks of life a chance to live the quality of life they deserve.