New WHA resolution to accelerate efforts on food micronutrient fortification


The Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly delegates adopted the resolution on accelerating efforts to prevent micronutrient deficiencies through safe and effective food fortification. The resolution urges Member States to decide on food fortification with micronutrients and supplementation and to consider strengthening financing and monitoring mechanisms.
Deficiencies in vitamin and mineral status, particularly folate, iron, vitamin A, and zinc, affect 50% of all preschool-aged children and 67% of all women of reproductive age (WRA) worldwide. Micronutrient deficiencies can have serious consequences, including spina bifida and other neural tube defects. These preventable deficiencies are associated with a higher risk of blindness, fragile immune systems, diminished exercise and physical capacity. Mothers with low micronutrients can have babies prematurely or with low birth weight. Iodine deficiency, still prevalent in many countries, impairs brain development in children, undermining their ability to learn and their eventual productivity.

Strengthening National Policies and Regulatory Frameworks

Large-scale food fortification (LSFF) is part of the solution. By national consumption patterns and deficiencies, countries can correct and further prevent a demonstrated micronutrient deficiency by adding essential vitamins and minerals to staple foods and condiments, such as wheat and maize flours, rice, cooking oil, and salt.
Fortification is an evidence-informed intervention that contributes to preventing, reducing, and controlling micronutrient deficiencies. It can correct a demonstrated micronutrient deficiency in the general population (mass or large-scale fortification) or in specific population groups (targeted fortification) such as children, pregnant women and the beneficiaries of social protection programmes.
WHO has been working in food fortification for decades and collaborates with different networks for fortification at the regional, country and community levels. WHO recommends large-scale food fortification as a powerful evidence-informed, cost-effective intervention to fight the consequences of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, counting iodine deficiency disorders, anaemia and iron deficiency, and neural tube defects.

Monitoring, Evaluation, and Reporting Mechanisms

The resolution was put forward by Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, European Union and its 27 Member States, Israel, Malaysia and Paraguay.
The resolution received broad support from civil society, with over 50 organizations calling on WHO to accelerate efforts on micronutrient food fortification through a jointly signed letter. The organizations underlined in their letter that micronutrient deficiency is a crisis that affects all communities globally, low-income or high-income and that there is still an extensive unfinished agenda on food fortification, calling on WHO to double the efforts to improve the reach and quality of food fortification programs, which have enormous potential to combat these preventable deficiencies and protect health.
This May, the 76th World Health Assembly will consider the passage of a resolution on food fortification, calling on Member States and the World Health Organization to accelerate efforts to prevent micronutrient deficiencies and their consequences through food fortification.
A community of advocates initiated this vital resolution focused on large-scale food fortification with folic acid (vitamin B9) as the most effective intervention to reduce the prevalence of spina bifida and hydrocephalus worldwide and has since been broadened to urge global progress in fortification with a range of micronutrients including iron, vitamin A, zinc, calcium and vitamin D.

Conclusion and Call to Action

Endorsed by more than 70 nutrition, healthcare, and disability rights organizations, the proposed resolution has the potential to mobilize new support and political will to expand and improve large-scale food fortification programmes worldwide.
This resolution is particularly timely given the rising levels of hunger and malnutrition resulting from the current global food crisis. Join the global futurefortified community on Tuesday, 4 April, for a webinar to learn more about this important global initiative and what you can do to support it.
Did you know that 1 in 2 preschool-aged children and 2 in 3 women of genital age worldwide have at slight one micronutrient deficiency? Large-scale food fortification is a critical intervention that adds essential vitamins and minerals to widely consumed foods and condiments to help address micronutrient malnutrition.
IF has been a vocal proponent for large-scale food fortification with folic acid for decades and, as a part of that advocacy, has been working with partners for the past year to bring a firm resolution on food fortification for reducing the prevalence of Spina Bifida and other Neural Tube Defects to the WHO. The approval of the WHO Executive Board is a massive milestone in achieving that goal.

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Olivia Wilson

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