FFI Newsletter March 2015
Solomon Islands Takes Steps Towards Fortification
Wheat flour and rice fortification planned
Plans are underway to fortify both wheat flour and rice in the Solomon Islands. The goal of the program is to prevent nutritional anemia and reduce the risk of pregnancies being affected by neural tube defects.
A 2006-2007 Demographic Health Survey revealed that nearly one in two women of child bearing age and one in two children under five years old in the Solomon Islands are anemic. These levels are severe. The March of Dimes estimates that 27 pregnancies a year in the Solomon Islands are affected by a neural tube defect. Fortifying wheat flour and rice can address both of these health concerns.
Most of the wheat flour in the Solomon Islands is domestically produced. The local flour mill, Delite, plans to begin fortification in May 2015. Flour fortification will follow the regional standard of including iron, zinc, and the following B vitamins: folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin.
Most of the rice consumed in the Solomon Islands is imported. A newly formed Food Fortification National Committee will work towards amending existing food legislation to require fortification of rice imports. Rice will be fortified with the same nutrients as flour, with the exception of riboflavin which can cause discoloration in rice.
Fortification efforts in the Solomon Islands are supported by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with cooperation from multi-sector stakeholders. An FFI consultant is coordinating vital technical support for a legislation review, appropriate standards, internal and external monitoring procedures, communications, and gathering baseline data for a future impact evaluation. See more…
Dr Tenneth Dalipanda, left, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) in the Solomon Islands, and Jimmy Saelea, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, sign the Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate to fortify wheat flour and rice in the Solomon Islands. Photo by Steve Alufurai for MHMS.
Progress Reported in Haryana and Rajasthan
Recent news from India indicates growing interest in fortification to improve nutritional intake.
According to a news article published on 8 March 2015, the government of Haryana is considering mandatory wheat flour fortification. The article notes the need to improve nutrition among women and children in particular.
Also in March, the government in Rajasthan announced plans to distribute fortified foods through the Public Distribution System. Plans call for atta flour, which is whole-wheat or high-extraction flour, to be fortified with sodium iron EDTA, folic acid, and vitamin B12. Edible oil will be fortified with vitamin A. Salt will be fortified iron and iodine. The announcement included plans for a Community Based Management of Acute Malnutrition as well as an initiative to strengthen regulatory monitoring through government food testing laboratories. Click here for the speech (in Hindi) that announced the plans.
Congratulations to the many global partners and national leaders in India who have worked diligently towards this progress.
New Studies Affirm Feasibility of Making Instant Noodles with Fortified Wheat Flour
Can instant noodles be made with fortified wheat flour without changing consumers’ acceptance of the product or shortening the noodles’ shelf life? The conclusion from two studies conducted in Asia is a resounding ‘yes.’
To explore the impact of storage on instant noodles, FFI commissioned the Food Innovation and Resource Centre (FIRC) of the Singapore Polytechnic to assess the shelf life of instant noodles made with flour fortified with different iron compounds. The study was conducted in 2013 and 2014 and co-funded by the Micronutrient Initiative, Mühlenchemie and FFI.
Using an Accelerated Shelf Life Test model, the study compared instant noodles made from non-fortified flour with instant noodles made from flour fortified with electrolytic iron, ferrous fumarate, encapsulated ferrous fumarate, or sodium iron EDTA. Control samples were stored at low temperature and humidity while test samples were stored in four different settings representing normal commercial storage conditions in Asian countries with elevated temperature and humidity.
Throughout the study period, samples were tested for iron content, peroxide and free fatty acid content as well as measures of rancidity, pH, moisture, and color. Sensory evaluation was also conducted to compare test samples against control samples stored at low temperature. The study concluded that instant noodles made with fortified flour have similar sensory properties and shelf life to noodles made with non-fortified flour.
This study complements another study published in 2011 which examined fortification’s impact on typical Asian foods made with wheat flour, including instant noodles. Researchers in Malaysia and the Philippines conducted tests on instant noodles made with wheat flour fortified according to World Health Organization recommendations. The fortification premixes included at least iron, folic acid and vitamin B12.
The tests found that instant noodles made with fortified wheat flour were acceptable in regard to color, texture, sensory evaluation, rancidity, and noodle crumb and sheet structure.
Flour is usually fortified with folic acid to help prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. Folic acid and other B vitamins used in fortification rarely cause sensory or shelf life problems; consequently these studies focused on iron.
The World Instant Noodle Association reports that the global demand for instant noodles increased 14% from 2009 to 2013, from 92.2 billion packets (bags or cups) in 2009 to 105.5 billion packets in 2013. The growth is not limited to Asia. For example, the market demand in Brazil increased 33% from 2009 to 2013.
Given the expanding global market of instant noodles, using fortified flour to make this convenience food represents an opportunity to provide more vitamins and minerals to potentially millions of people worldwide.
- See the study on fortification’s impact on Asian’s wheat flour products.
- See the study on the accelerated shelf life of instant noodles made with fortified flour.
- Thanks to the Milling Journal and BBM magazines for sharing this news with their readers.
- In a related piece, Milling and Grain magazine featured a story based on Mühlenchemie research on the effects of fortifying with different iron compounds on the color of dried noodles and pasta.
|The Food Innovation and Resource Centre (FIRC) of Singapore Polytechnic compared instant noodles that had been stored at 3 degree Celsius and 40 degree Celsius for 18 weeks as part of the study on whether using fortified flour to make instant noodles affected the shelf life. Photo by FIRC.|
Fortifying Flour Where Rice is Commonly Consumed
By Scott J. Montgomery, FFI Director
When we changed the FFI name to the Food Fortification Initiative last year, we emphasized that our scope of work now includes rice. It is exciting to be part of the emerging efforts to fortify rice with the vitamins and minerals needed to make people smarter, stronger, and healthier.
However that does not mean we are giving up on fortifying wheat flour in countries where rice is commonly consumed. Here are some reasons that we continue to encourage countries throughout Asia to consider fortifying both wheat flour and rice in industrial mills.
First, in many countries where rice is commonly consumed, foods made with wheat flour are also widely available. In 2011, 322 million metric tons of rice were available in the food supply in 27 countries in Eastern, Southern, and South-Eastern Asia, according to the Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations. The same year, 221 million tons of wheat-based foods were in the food supply. To ignore wheat flour fortification just because people eat more rice is to ignore a significant food vehicle for fortification.
Second, the industry infrastructure usually favors wheat flour fortification. Countries in Asia typically have very large wheat flour mills that use the latest milling technology. They can easily install the proper equipment, secure quality premix, and monitor the addition of the vitamins and minerals in a very accurate and professional manner.
Some countries in Asia, such as Thailand, Viet Nam, and India, have a large industrial rice milling capacity. We do encourage those millers to fortify, and we also want to consider the potential health impact of these large mills fortifying rice they export to other countries. However rice milling in many countries involves thousands of small mills. In those settings, rice fortification would be cost-prohibitive due to the challenge of distributing fortified kernels to decentralized locations. The sustainability of the program would be questionable because it would be nearly impossible to provide external monitoring.
Third, and most importantly, the burden of vitamin and mineral deficiency is extremely high in the regions where a combination of rice and wheat are commonly consumed. Countries in Central and West Africa have a higher percentage of women and children with anemia than any other region of the world, according to a July 2013 report in The Lancet Global Health. Countries in South Asia have the second highest percentage (see table).
Percentage of women and children with anemia (2011)
Central and West Africa
Children aged <5 years
Non-pregnant women aged 15-49 years
Pregnant women aged 15-49 years
Source: Stevens, G., et. al., Global, regional, and national trends in hemoglobin concentration and prevalence of total and severe anemia in children and pregnant and non-pregnant women for 1995-2011: as systematic analysis of population-representative data. The Lancet Global Health. July 2013.
The authors of The Lancet Global Health article noted that “if present trends are maintained, the probability of halving the anaemia from 2011 levels in women of reproductive age is less than 25% in all regions individually and negligible at the global level.”
I urge us to take this statement as a challenge. We cannot maintain present trends. Not fortifying wheat flour where people eat more rice must change if a significant amount of wheat is consumed as well. We estimate that only 1% of the world’s industrially milled rice is fortified; this trend must change so that rice fortification is standard practice in large mills. Too much is at stake to maintain the status quo.
The public, private, and civic sector partners involved in FFI are available to help countries consider both wheat flour and rice fortification and determine what is economically feasible and sustainable. Legislation can be created to address the current situation and easily allow for modifications as consumption patterns change and new technologies evolve. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Considerations in Choosing Fortified Rice Kernels
As rice fortification becomes more common, companies are opening fortified kernel production facilities. The kernels, packed with vitamins and minerals, are blended with unfortified kernels to produce fortified rice.
The expanding fortified kernel production business means rice millers will have multiple choices for suppliers when they begin fortification. Tips on how to choose appropriate micronutrient kernels were published in February by Global Milling Advances.
In summary, fortified kernels should:
- Closely resemble non-fortified kernels in size, shape, color and density in both dry and cooked states
- Require no change in traditional rice preparation or cooking
- Be cost-effective
- Provide nutritional effectiveness
This list is based on United States Department of Agriculture requirements for fortified milled rice in food assistance programs. It was included in a presentation during the Scaling Up Rice Fortification in Asia conference in September 2014. See all presentations from the conference here.
Case Studies Verify Internal Controls; Disparity in Other Monitoring
Three recently completed case studies have verified that industrial flour mills in Chile, Indonesia, and the Republic of South Africa have rigorous internal controls to confirm that their products comply with country standards for fortification. However, other types of monitoring were inconsistent in the three countries.
“We are pleased to see that these flour millers are at the forefront of ensuring that their customers receive the health benefits from fortification,” said Helena Pachón, FFI Senior Nutrition Scientist. The studies are a collaborative effort between UNICEF, FFI, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Research for the case studies included interviewing government personnel responsible for monitoring fortification and visiting mills, bakeries, food retail outlets, inspection laboratories, and companies that produce vitamin and mineral premix.
In addition to the findings on rigorous internal monitoring, highlights from the studies are:
- Chile has the most comprehensive external monitoring plan in which government regulators conduct a strategically planned and financed program. The program focuses on the point of production and on-site warehouses with some review of the mill’s internal records of fortification monitoring. Warnings and sanctions are issued if flour samples are non-compliant in two or more micronutrients. Results of Chile’s monitoring activities are published annually on the Ministry of Health website.
- Indonesia has the most extensive commercial monitoring program as it concentrates efforts on the retail sector. Commercial monitoring assesses whether flour being sold at retail establishments is properly fortified.
- Indonesia is the only country of the three studied with significant amounts of imported flour. All premix shipments require a Certificate of Analysis at Customs, but a lack of laboratory resources and funding restrict regular monitoring of imported flour.
- All three countries have a health impact evaluation component which determines whether the nutritional goals of the program are being met. Some of the impact evaluations are conducted through non-governmental special projects. This information can be used to improve fortification to achieve the maximum health benefits. For example, South Africa is using its impact evaluation to reconsider the levels and type of iron used in fortification.
The collaborating partners for these case studies determined that very little information was available on how fortification monitoring operates in real-world settings. The case studies consequently looked at the strengths and challenges of actual monitoring systems in three regions.
While the case studies reviewed all aspects of monitoring, not all components are needed for every flour fortification program. Commercial monitoring of packaged flour may not be needed, for example, if most flour is distributed to bakeries rather than sold at retail outlets. And import monitoring may not be needed if most flour is domestically produced.
Ideally fortification monitoring programs are created by multiple-sector stakeholders who consider the country’s capacity to measure the program’s performance. The stakeholders can evaluate the human, technical, and financial requirements for effective monitoring then design a fortification program with the resources needed to implement a monitoring program.
In most cases, however, it is logical for national fortification programs to include at least internal and external monitoring, Pachón said. Internal monitoring at the production site identifies and resolves issues quickly before problems become widespread. Since flour milling is typically a centralized industry, external monitoring of a smaller number of mills is usually more practical than commercial monitoring of thousands of retail establishments.
Follow these links to the case studies:
Thanks to Milling and Grain magazine for sharing this story with its readers.
FFI Newsletter March 2015 Table of Contents
- Solomon Islands Takes Steps Towards Fortification
- Progress Reported in Haryana and Rajasthan
- New Studies Affirm Feasibility of Making Instant Noodles with Fortified Wheat Flour
- Fortifying Flour Where Rice is Commonly Consumed
- Considerations in Choosing Fortified Rice Kernels
- Case Studies Verify Internal Controls; Disparity in Other Monitoring
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