The nutritional fortification of our food is a big deal. Sometimes, food is enriched with nutrients that are lost during food processing, like when nutrients are added back to flour. Then there are foods that are fortified to provide more nutrients for health. Cereals are a good example.
The enrichment and fortification of our food is of importance to public health. Micronutrient deficiencies are an issue in developing nations, as well as underprivileged segments of our population. As such, the World Health Organization has recognized the fortification of food with micronutrients as beneficial to public health because it can “deliver nutrients to large segments of the population without requiring radical changes in food consumption patterns.” (see this publication from WHO and this post from CDC for more info).
So the fact that these nutrients are being removed from food just to obtain a certification that is of no health benefit is mind boggling, because our food is actually becoming less healthy because of it. Genetically modified yeast and bacteria are often used to make micronutrients because they're very efficient. Think of them as vitamin producing mini-factories. At the same time, many vitamins use corn or soy as starting material in manufacturing, and this corn or soy may be genetically modified which is somehow a "health risk"...
|Multivitamins. Image from Wikimedia Commons.|
No doubt there are detractors who argue that fortification and food enrichment does not address the issues that we’re facing with nutritional deficiencies in America; that we should strive towards diets with more fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains as sources of vitamins and minerals. While I agree this is the ideal and should be our societal goal, we cannot simply reduce the enrichment of our food without having achieved it. The removal of these nutrients due to a marketing label that has no scientific basis puts at-risk individuals in our population in harm’s way.