The FAO/WHO International Conference on Nutrition (ICN), held in Rome during December 1992, recognised the widespread occurrence of micronutrient deficiencies. The ICN World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition recommended steps to make all efforts to eliminate iodine and vitamin A deficiencies before the end of this decade and to reduce substantially other important micronutrient deficiencies, including iron.
Food-based approaches were recognised by the ICN as the most effective way to address existing micronutrient deficiencies. These approaches must include strategies to assure dietary diversification, improved food availability, food preservation, nutrition education and food fortification. Existing constraints in many developing countries include agricultural, economic, environmental, socio-cultural, political, health-related and infrastructural issues. In every case the most appropriate combination of the above mentioned nutrition strategies must be employed to overcome local constraints and achieve the desired results. It is widely recognised that the long term solution to micronutrient deficiencies must rest on the provision of adequate quantities of all micronutrients from a well balanced diet.
Certain micronutrients are sometimes not naturally present or available in local foods, such as adequate amounts of iodine. This can be due to lack of iodine in the soil where crops are grown, or in the case of other micronutrients such as iron or vitamin A, due to problems of bioavailability, unbalanced diets or intestinal parasites. In such cases, food fortification with micronutrients may help in overcoming deficiency problems. The major problems involved in fortifying foods include the identification of suitable vehicles, selection of appropriate fortificant compounds, determination of technologies to be used in the fortification process and the implementation of appropriate monitoring mechanisms to determine whether the goals of the programme are being met. Reliable methods for determining micronutrient status are required both in establishing the need for food fortification and in monitoring its nutritional impact.
These issues were presented to this Technical Consultation on Food Fortification for their consideration and for their guidance in arriving at appropriate recommendations with regards to food fortification.