Shelly Dholakia

June 11, 2012

3 Min Read
Fortification: Then & Now

Nutrient fortification and enrichment has a storied history, dating back to the 1940s with the addition of enrichment mixtures to ready-to-eat cereals, flour and semolina; inclusion of high levels of folic acid in enriched foods became mandatory in 1943. The amount of fortification has increased substantially since the 1960s, starting with the addition of enrichment mixtures to rice, cornmeal, grits and margarine in 1969.

When a food product is enriched, it means nutrients that were lost during processing have been added back. An example is adding back some of the vitamins lost when processing wheat to make white flour. On the other hand, fortified means vitamins or minerals have been added to a food that weren't originally present, such as adding vitamin D to milk. The food that carries the nutrient is the vehicle; the nutrient added is the fortificant. Multiple fortifications are the addition of more than one nutrient to a single food vehicle.

Food fortification or enrichment is the process of adding micronutrients (essential trace elements and vitamins) to food. It can be a business decision for health benefits to provide extra nutrients in a food, or it could be a public policy requirement to reduce dietary deficiencies.

Staple foods such as wheat flour, milk and margarine traditionally have been considered for fortification. Fortification requires no change in food habits, does not change the characteristics of the food or taste, if formulated right, and has readily visible benefits.

Fortification of foods and  beverages is gaining popularity as consumers seek healthy foods not just in natural products outlets, but also in grocery stores and convenience stores. They are also interested in products with various physiological benefits as well as nutrients that address specific health conditions. Common foods that have been fortified include milk and dairy products, cereals, fats and oils, and infant foods.

Several factors need to be considered when addressing the issue of developing multi-functional ingredients, including the type of product being fortified, processing conditions, shelf life, specific health benefit, nutrient interactions, regulatory and much more.

Some of the major functional food ingredients include vitamins, minerals, botanicals, plant extracts, prebiotics and probiotics. While foods were previously only fortified with more widely known and accepted ingredients such as vitamin C, calcium or vitamin D, consumers are now looking for and open to ingredients and products that offer multiple benefits. This provides a lot of opportunity for a companies to formulate and deliver new fortified products.

To address various health concerns and benefits, new ingredients and applications are being developed. Consider the positioning of vitamins C and E and lycopene as antioxidants; calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamins D and K for bone health; selenium and alpha-lipoic acid for anti-aging; into other combinations to address energy, digestive, immune and a host of other issues.

Nutrients also can have interactions, some of which are beneficial and some are not desirable. Steps such as encapsulation or masking with flavors can help formulators develop more stable and acceptable products. These factors have to be taken into account when designing a blend for different products, e.g. beverage versus a bar.

When missing vitamins and minerals are added to the daily dietmany nutritional deficiencies are seen in combinationdramatic positive results are often the result.

For more information, visit INSIDER's Content Library on Functional Foods for articles such as "The Drive for Functionality and the Aging Population" and "Trends in Functional Food and Beverage Marketing."

Shelly Dholakia is technical fortification manager for Caravan Ingredients. She has more than 20 years of experience as a formulation scientist as well as in quality management. Her expertise lies in formulating functional foods and supplements in powder, liquid, bar, tablet and capsule categories.

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