Nutrition

Fortification of condiments and seasonings with vitamins and minerals in public health: from proof of concept to scaling up

Consultation

In collaboration with the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) and the Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science
Place: New York Academy of Sciences, New York, NY, United States of America Date: 26-28 August 2014

Scope and purpose

WHO is currently working on the development of global guidelines on fortification of several staple foods with vitamins and minerals as part of public health programmes. Food fortification at the industrial level has been considered as a safe and cost-effective strategy to prevent vitamin and mineral malnutrition in populations. Industry-based mass fortification aims to reach larger populations at a minimum marginal cost, particularly when produced by medium to large scale industries.

In addition to staple foods, condiments, spices and seasonings have been proposed as a vehicle to increase the intake of vitamins and minerals. In some situations, fortification of condiments or seasonings (e.g. soy and fish sauces, curry powder or bouillon powders or cubes) may be a useful alternative if they are consumed consistently by most of the population, as is the case in many Asian and African countries.

Fortification of condiments and seasonings is an innovative strategy that could complement the conventional mass fortification of staple foods to reach the maximum impact in countries where condiments are widely consumed by the general population. It may have several benefits including feasibility, cost-effectiveness, sensory acceptability, targeting of subpopulations, and frequent and consistent use.

Since herbs, spices, seasonings and condiments (e.g. seasoning for instant noodles) are intended to enhance the aroma and taste of food, this intervention is particularly important for reaching populations in resource-poor settings who use condiments to improve the palatability of monotonous diets consisting mainly of few staple foods.

Herbs, spices, seasonings and condiments are intended to enhance the aroma and taste of food. They are clearly defined by the Codex Alimentarius Commission; however, the category of condiments, spices and seasonings is very ample and the Codex Alimentarius Commission is considering a revision of the nomenclature. The majority of research on the fortification of condiments and seasonings has been conducted by adding NaFeEDTA to soy and fish sauces in Southeast Asian countries and various micronutrients to salt other countries.

It is assumed, however, that experiences may be available elsewhere. Other condiments, such as bouillon cubes or curry powder are being fortified with iron and other vitamins and minerals. The suitability of these condiments and seasonings as safe and efficacious vehicles for additional vitamins and minerals and how such programmes would work in real-world settings require a clear understanding of several aspects from production, consumption and trade as well as acceptability in the population.

WHO has commissioned a systematic review of evidence to determine the effects of fortifying condiments and seasonings with iron alone or iron plus other micronutrients on iron deficiency anaemia and health-related outcomes in populations at risk of vitamin and mineral malnutrition.

The review will help inform a WHO guideline on the fortification of condiments and seasonings. While the review is in progress, it is also important to bring together technical experts, researchers, producers, policy makers and program implementers to collate their opinions on the technology and feasibility of fortifying condiments and seasonings for the improvement of micronutrient status, and to explore the applicability in other countries where condiments are less often used.

WHO, in collaboration with Micronutrient Initiative and the Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, is convening a Consultation: Fortification of condiments and seasonings with vitamins and minerals in public health: from proof of concept to scaling up in New York City, NY, United States of America to be held on 26-28 August 2014 to discuss these issues in detail.

The objectives of this consultation are to review:

  • Role of condiments and seasonings in improving micronutrient status as constituent of regular diets and patterns of production and consumption worldwide.
  • Technical considerations with regard to amount of fortifiers used, their stability, and bioavailability as well as the acceptability of the final product.
  • Economy of condiment and seasoning fortification and equitable marketing to ensure access by vulnerable populations.
  • Legal and regulatory issues related to condiment and seasoning fortification.
  • Research priorities to better support evidence of improved nutrition and unintended adverse effects.
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