Vitamins & Minerals - Small but Mighty! - April 2018

This highly interactive evening event was organised by IFST’s Food Science & Nutrition Group and chaired by Kate Halliwell (Food and Drink Federation) who introduced the panel of experts to highlight regulatory, health and formulation issues regarding vitamins and minerals in our diets. 

Ayela Spiro (British Nutrition Foundation) introduced ‘Paradox of plenty: can we really have concerns over micronutrient intakes in the UK?’, explaining that concerningly there are more than a quarter of adults and a fifth of ‘Year 6’ children (10/11-year olds) who are obese, and actually dietary quality is more relevant than merely focussing on calories.  Micronutrient deficiencies in developing countries include iodine, vitamin A and iron but higher intake levels are not necessarily better for health. Data presented showed that particularly high numbers of UK secondary school age females (aged 11- 18) have below recommended intakes of calcium, folate, iodine and especially iron, and there is also evidence of inadequate intakes for adult females.  The presentation highlighted increased risk of neural tube defects in more than 90% of women of child bearing age due inadequate folate intake.  Regarding vitamin D, the government recommends supplementation for toddlers, and for young children (in autumn and winter), and more than a quarter of adolescents have low status so campaigns are supplement based.  With respect to eating patterns, teenagers’ poor dietary choices are reflected in poor nutrient intake with less than 10% eating ‘5 a day’.  

Jennifer Garry (JG Nutrition & Regulatory Consultancy) discussed Regulatory issues/claims and the consumer’ by clarifying that of the nearly 230 EU approved general function claims, more than 170 relate to vitamins or minerals e.g. iron, vitamin B6, calcium, and that general health claims made refer to benefits, but must be declared next to a relevant, authorised claim. She gave some useful examples of product labels impacted by Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Adjudications. The difference between mandatory (e.g. flour) and voluntary fortification of processed foods, and safe maximum amounts was also discussed

In To Fortify or not to Fortify?’,  Laura Street (Kellogg’s) explained how Kellogg’s have fortified products since the 1930s, in response to public health needs, and now many of their breakfast cereals are fortified with 6 B vitamins (including folic acid for products marketed for women), iron, calcium and zinc, as well as 50% (increased from 25%) of the Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) for vitamin D. People who are overweight, have pregnancy related high blood pressure, are elderly or are dark-skinned may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency.   

Lindsey Bagley (Eureka) introduced key reasons for fortifying foods in Technical challenges of incorporating into foods, summarising when it would be required e.g. infants, weight reduction, wheat flour, margarine, and for market differentiation (breakfast cereals, beverages, dairy products), stressing how product developers need to consider factors influencing vitamin stability such as temperature, water activity, oxygen, time. Vitamin B9, for example, is very unstable to light, and vitamin C to acidic conditions. When adding minerals, such as calcium, to a formulation, the solubility and impact on taste must be carefully considered.

In the ensuing overall discussion, it was explained that in some cases manufacturers must add extra fortificants, referred to as overages, since related claims must be applicable to food products at the end of their shelf life, but within legal tolerances. This applies to Vitamin C for example. Companies need to build up knowledge of their products to form correlations and accelerated shelf life may be used. 

The use of milk replacers for consumption with breakfast cereals was touched on, and the fact that some are fortified with calcium, and that generally they are lower in protein.

Given that Vitamin D is crucial for bone health and immune system function, the question was asked whether D2 or D3 was the better form.  A panellist confirmed that studies show that D3 is superior. 

Food supplement consumption is actually higher in people with healthy diets as it is linked with socio-economic status, with sales of multi-vitamins on the increase.  Extremes in vitamin and mineral consumption are generally unrelated to food but with high supplement usage.

The fact that health claims can be confusing to consumers was aired and about trends such as protein sources. A food with a ‘contains’ statement is perceived as being good for you. 

How to support teenagers’ dietary needs was a useful topic of discussion, suggesting that linking with social values, such as the environment, was likely to strike a chord, and that simply ‘good for you’ would be insufficient.

Consideration of market requirements is important for export, for example in Germany there is less acceptance of fortification of food.

In conclusion, food manufacturers need to be responsible, address consumer needs, educate, avoid implied claims and mention benefits in context of a healthy, balanced diet.

Natasha Medhurst, Scientific Affairs Manager, IFST