Food fortification spurred by military purchases

Food fortification with vitamins and minerals is one of the most effective methods to improve health and prevent nutritional deficiencies. It is greatly responsible for the virtual eradication of disease such as goiter, rickets, beriberi, and pellagra in the United States. New research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that developing nations could implement successful food fortification programs by requiring fortified foods for their military personnel. The conclusions are based on a detailed review of the history of food fortification programs in the U.S., which is published in the January 22, 2003, edition of the journal Economic Development and Cultural Change.

"Food fortification in the U.S. was accomplished with a great deal of cooperation between the food industry and public forces. Historically, food producers have been eager to supply fortified food once it was proven it could be profitable," said David Bishai, PhD, co-author of the review and assistant professor of population and family health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Many of the industrial and market forces in the U.S. do not apply to developing nations, but our research shows that governments can take steps to encourage manufacturers to fortify food for the public. One way may be to have military purchasers demand only fortified products."

Dr. Bishai and co-author Ritu Nalubola, examined the major waves of food fortification in the United States, which include the iodization of salt in the 1920s, fortification of milk with vitamin D in the 1930s, enrichment of flour and bread in the 1940s, and the wide spread addition of calcium to a variety of products beginning in the 1980s. For salt, milk, and bread, food fortification was accomplished by establishing the health benefits through scientific research and enlisting the support of food manufacturers. In most cases, manufactures found the measures to be profitable aft

Contact: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

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