Developing world benefits from vitamin A fortification

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Vitamin a, Maize

German ingredients supplier, BASF, is driving forward its developing world food fortification programme with new government and corporate partnerships and a “mini lab” to speed vitamin A fortification.

A “spot test kit” ​developed by BASF that gives companies and bodies the ability to instantly determine vitamin A content in foods, is being distributed to countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Tanzania, Indonesia, Cambodia and Uzbekistan.

It allows smaller producers to accurately determine vitamin A levels in staple food stuffs such as flour and sugar.

The machine has been produced as part of BASF’s association with the German government-owned Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH under a project known as the Safo initiative.

Its Safo initiative and other efforts have been partly responsible, along with the sugar industry, for making vitamin A deficiency a thing of the past in San Salvador, as typical needs were met by those consuming 100g of vitamin A-fortified sugar per day.

Corporate responsibility

BASF has engaged in similar projects in more than 20 countries for nearly 20 years, in attempts to better feed the 140 to 250 million under-5s estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be suffering from vitamin A deficiency.

“These projects are part of BASF’s corporate responsibility,”​ said Dr Andreas Blüthner, global coordinator of Safo and BASF’s Food Fortification Team, noting they were economically self-sustainable.

“We have charity initiatives but these projects cover their costs and that way they get more management support and have the potential to spread further into areas where they are needed the most such as Africa, south east Asia and latin America,” ​he told NutraIngredients.com. “There has to be balance between corporate responsibility and profitability.”

“The most important objective is to ensure a long-term supply of food containing vitamin A,” ​said Professor Dr Michael Krawinkel of Justus-Liebig University in Gießen, Germany. At this academic institution, where he is the chair of “Human Nutrition with Focus on International Nutrition” ​and scientific adviser to the Safo initiative.

“Vitamin A can only have a sustainable effect if taken regularly in small doses. A single dose of vitamin A capsules provides only short term benefits,”​ Krawinkel said. “Fortifying staple foods such as oil, sugar and flour, which are consumed by the population regularly and in sufficient amounts, therefore offers a possible medium- to long-term solution.”

Blüthner noted that the think tank the Copenhagen Consensus had ranked food fortification the number one way to spend money in the developing world in terms of delivering the greatest benefits to local people.

BASF noted that vitamin A fortification could cost less than 0.1 or 0.2 per cent of the overall cost of the commodity and formulation presented few difficulties.

Vitamin A deficiency can cause eye problems including blindness and has been linked to diseases such as diabetes.

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