Wheat Flour and Rice Fortification Status in the Pacific Region
In this region, we are working with Solomon Islands leaders to support mandatory fortification of imported rice. Nearly all the rice consumed there is imported. Wheat in Solomon Islands is also imported, but it is domestically milled and fortified according to national regulations. Our work in Solomon Islands is funded through Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Also in this region, Australia and Fiji have reported improvements in nutrient status among the population due to wheat flour fortification.
In 2009, fortifying bread flour with folic acid was mandated in Australia. Since then, the following three studies have demonstrated an improved health impact from this program:
- 77% reduction in the prevalence of low serum folate levels
- Birth defects of the brain and spine, called neural tube defects, fell by 14% among the entire population and by 75% among indigenous women
- Homocysteine levels were significantly reduced among people older than 65 years
In Fiji, the prevalence of iron, folate and zinc deficiency significantly reduced after wheat flour was fortified, according to a 2010 report from the National Food and Nutrition Centre. The most change was in the prevalence of zinc deficiency which dropped from 39.3% before fortification to 0% after fortification. Also, anemia in women of child bearing age improved from 40.3% before fortification to 27.6% after fortification.
Both wheat flour and rice are important cereal grains in this region. Other than New Zealand and Australia, most countries import wheat and rice. A key difference is that wheat is usually milled domestically, while the imported rice is already milled. This difference has important implications for rice fortification. See this worksheet to help determine if requiring fortification of rice imports is feasible. Also see these rice fortification resources.
Fuel and food prices, growing populations, and increasing urbanization are changing the diets of people throughout this region. These changing patterns very often result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies as less land is available for local production of fruits and vegetables. Fortifying staple foods has the potential to impact millions of people here. The countries in this region and the legislative status of grain fortification are listed below. Click on the country name to see more information.