Fortified Foods Are Major Contributors to Apparent Intakes of Vitamin A and Iodine, but Not Iron, in Diets of Women of Reproductive Age in 4 African Countries

Background: Food fortification is implemented to increase intakes of specific nutrients in the diet, but contributions of fortified foods to nutrient intakes are rarely quantified.

Objectives: We quantified iron, vitamin A, and iodine intakes from fortified staple foods and condiments among women of reproductive age (WRA).

Methods: In subnational (Nigeria, South Africa) and national (Tanzania, Uganda) cross-sectional, clustered household surveys, we assessed fortifiable food consumption. We estimated daily nutrient intakes from fortified foods among WRA by multiplying the daily apparent fortifiable food consumption (by adult male equivalent method) by a fortification content for the food. Two fortification contents were used: measured, based on the median amount quantified from individual food samples collected from households; and potential, based on the targeted amount in national fortification standards. Results for both approaches are reported as percentages of the estimated average requirement (EAR) and recommended nutrient intake (RNI).

Results: Fortified foods made modest contributions to measured iron intakes (0%–13% RNI); potential intakes if standards are met were generally higher (0%–65% RNI). Fortified foods contributed substantially to measured vitamin A and iodine intakes (20%–125% and 88%–253% EAR, respectively); potential intakes were higher (53%–655% and 115%–377% EAR, respectively) and would exceed the tolerable upper intake level among 18%–56% of WRA for vitamin A in Nigeria and 1%–8% of WRA for iodine in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Conclusions: Fortified foods are major contributors to apparent intakes of vitamin A and iodine, but not iron, among WRA. Contributions to vitamin A and iodine are observed despite fortification standards not consistently being met and, if constraints to meeting standards are addressed, there is risk of excessive intakes in some countries. For all programs assessed, nutrient intakes from all dietary sources and fortification standards should be reviewed to inform adjustments where needed to avoid risk of low or excessive intakes.