February 05, 2016

05/02/2016: Vietnam passes food fortification decree: Wheat flour, salt, and cooking oil included

The Prime Minister of Vietnam signed a decree on 28 January 2016 to mandate food fortification as a means of improving people’s vitamin and mineral intake.

The legislation requires adding iodine to salt, vitamin A to cooking oil, and iron and zinc to wheat flour. In addition, the decree requires the use of iodised salt in processed foods. The decree will be effective 15 March 2016.

Fortification is a proven means of preventing many serious consequences of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. For example, iodine improves children’s mental capacity, vitamin A and zinc improve immune status, iron reduces the risk of iron deficiency anaemia, and vitamin A reduces the risk of childhood blindness.

Currently in Viet Nam, 54 percent of pregnant women and 63 percent of children younger than 5 years old are iron deficient and/or anaemic, 80 percent of pregnant women and 69.4 percent of children younger than 5 years old are zinc deficient, and 35 percent of lactating women have low concentrations of Vitamin A in their breast milk. It is crucial to address these deficiencies as they have long-term negative consequences on a child’s growth and development, as well as the mother’s health.

Fortification is a cost-effective intervention because preventing health problems related to nutritional deficiencies is far more economical than treating the associated disease. In addition, these deficiencies cause children’s mental capacity to be underdeveloped which affects their academic performance and limits their future earnings potential.

All of these factors impact a country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The World Bank estimates that Vietnam loses US$544 million annually in GDP due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Achieving universal salt iodisation alone could lead to a 3 000 percent return on investment. A multi-partner policy paper found that fortifying salt and wheat flour would be the “best investment for Viet Nam’s national economic development.”

Mandatory fortification is successful partly because it does not require people to change their behaviour. They will not have to identify and select special fortified products or change their regular eating patterns.

The fortification decree is the result of several years of work from national leaders with support from partners such as UNICEF, the Food Fortification Initiative (FFI), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the Iodine Global Network (IGN).

Visit the FFI site HERE.

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