Ask a Dietitian > Enhancing our meals with food fortification

Enhancing our meals with food fortification

July 19, 2017

When you think about malnutrition, heart wrenching images of extremely unhappy looking, thin, bony and famished individuals come to mind.

Some years ago, while working as the Chief Dietitian in a hospital in the Sultanate of Oman, I worked with many malnourished children with these exact signs and symptoms.

Fortunately the treatment was simple, education on ways in which the child’s normal, culturally acceptable diet, could be enhanced to provide additional protein and energy.  This included food fortification in the form of reinforced milk using additional fats and carbohydrate, which supported these children to grow up to be healthy, vibrant kids.

Malnutrition in the form of undernutrition, across the life cycle is a concern in all countries, even New Zealand. Luckily fortified foods provide an excellent strategy in combating this problem for disabled children, youth and adults who are at risk of or are malnourished.

What is Food Fortification?

Fortifying foods is the addition of nutrients, such as macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) and/or micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to an everyday food to improve nutritional quality and provide a health benefit.

It is common practice for food manufacturers to add micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals) into their food products. Examples of common foods that may contain fortified nutrients include milk, salt, bread, spreads, breakfast cereals and supplementary foods and drinks.

Additionally, we may ourselves fortify the nutrient content of home prepared meals we regularly eat by the addition of healthy oils, concentrated protein and carbohydrates to foods familiar to the family.

Ideally when fortifying a food item the amount of food eaten does not increase very much at all, as the fat and protein added is in a concentrated form. For example, the protein fortifier is generally a refined protein powder and the oil component a healthy and tasteless plant based oil. This is important as many people at risk of malnutrition are unable to eat large quantities of foods and smaller concentrated meal items are better tolerated.

For some who may be underweight or have increased nutritional needs (possibly due to the consequences of a permanent disability, acute illness or chronic disease), additional calories in the form of a high energy and high protein diet may be required to keep them well nourished. Simply adding additional ingredients to meals, for example, butter or grated cheese and cream to scrambled eggs or mashed potatoes, can help bulk up the nutrient content of meals without the person having to eat increased amounts of food to get the same nutritional advantage.

What makes The Pure Food Co.’s meals different?

There are no other texture modified fortified foods in New Zealand that have been developed specifically to meet the needs of the adult palate.

All meals from the Pure Food Company’s production kitchen have been prepared following significant research and development of products to meet the needs of individuals who are at risk of malnutrition due to swallowing problems or mechanical difficulties in eating normal food.

Fortified meals developed by The Pure Foods Company contain on average, 66% more energy and 142% more protein than comparable dishes.This innovative company aims to restore people’s appetite for life when life’s challenges have diminished it, with aesthetically appealing , delicious, nutritious food.

Summary

Food fortification overcomes the barriers to individuals accessing a range of nutrients which may be a lower concentration in normal meals, when the form of nutrient is not easily absorbed or when a certain public health issue needs to be addressed with food fortification.

Consuming fortified foods is an easy solution and supports a normalised approach to meeting increased nutrient needs and improving health. It fills in nutrient gaps that may be present in the individual’s normal eating pattern, reducing the need to eat additional amounts of foods to obtain the same nutritional benefit.

Keep an eye out for the next blog which will explain how fortified foods can help treat malnutrition.

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References:

  1. WHO.FAO (2006). Guidelines on food fortification with micronutrients. Geneva, Switzerland.
  2. Ministry of Health (2016). Annual Update of Key Results 2015/106: New Zealand Health Survey. Wellington, Ministry of Health.
  3. National Health and Research Council, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, New Zealand Ministry of Health (2006). Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. Canberra, Australia.
  4. Ministry of Primary Industries. Iodine and Fortification. Website: http://www.foodsafety.govt.nz/elibrary/industry/Iodine_Fortification-Background_Information.htm
  5. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Vitamins and Minerals Added to Food. Website: http://www.foodstandards.govt.nz/consumer/nutrition/vitaminadded/Pages/default.aspx

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Our nutritionally fortified purees and minced & moist products are a convenient meal option as they have a shelf life of 30 days in the refrigerator, they require minimum preparation and are ready to serve, meaning less hands and less chance of infection. Given these uncertain times we are working with our customers to help ensure their own continued ability to serve nutritious and safe food to their residents.

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