Micronutrient deficiencies (also known as hidden hunger) are a significant public health problem globally. Pre-pandemic estimates found 1 in 2 children and 2 in 3 women suffering from a micronutrient deficiency. Levels of deficiency are likely to be even higher today given the protracted global food crisis arising from the COVID pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Large Scale Food Fortification (LSFF) adds essential minerals and vitamins to widely consumed foods and is a highly scalable and cost-effective solution proven to prevent micronutrient deficiencies including in low- and middle-income countries.
Unfortunately, a large unfinished agenda on food fortification remains. Re-doubling collective efforts to improve the reach and quality of food fortification programs has enormous potential to combat hidden hunger worldwide. 84 countries could benefit from establishing new mandatory fortification programs, and most existing programs must be strengthened to reach more people with high-quality fortified food.
To ensure the success of LSFF, governments can establish and strengthen national mandatory fortification standards as well as a regulatory frameworks that ensure access to high-quality fortified foods across the entire population. Strong regulations also help ensure a level playing field for fortified food producers where all are held to the same standard.
A resolution on the agenda of this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) calls on member states to establish and strengthen food fortification programs to combat the growing global crisis of micronutrient malnutrition and requests the Director General of WHO to provide guidance and technical support to Member States in this regard. The resolution will come before the WHA in late-May 2023.