Vitamins & Minerals - Small but Mighty!

IFST runs regular debates on key topics in the food industry. This micronutrient discussion followed a series on the macronutrients. Based in Belgrave Square, it was an opportunity for industry professionals and students to listen, and debate, on four topics: UK micronutrient intake, claims & regulations, the need for fortification and its technical challenges. The event specifically opened our eyes to the complex and topical issue of fortification, with speakers from key organisation such as the British Nutrition Foundation and Kellogg’s. Over an hour of debate followed four five minute presentations.

The first presentation, from the British Nutrition Foundation, stressed the importance of dietary quality over supplementation but emphasised the fact that supplementation may be necessary to combat the micronutrient deficiency in the younger UK population, particularly females. 

This was followed by Jennifer Garry, JG Nutrition and Regulatory Consultancy Ltd who discussed regulatory issues with fortification. Poor labelling and incorrect advertisement on fortified foods can mislead consumers, so best practice was discussed.

An industry focussed presentation followed by Laura Street, Senior Nutrition Manager at Kellogg's. Their ethos to fortification was highlighted, starting their fortification in the 1930s, and fortifying specific products to meet specific consumer needs (e.g. Special K and folic acid) The importance of monitoring and responding to the consumer need was highlighted, why Kellogg’s have increased the level of Vitamin D in their products to media coverage of UK deficiencies. She spoke about the importance of monitoring and responding to consumer needs and how companies need to take responsibility and provide a choice of nutrients and a variety of nutrient bundles across their portfolios.

The presentations were concluded by Lindsey Bagley from Flavour Horizons, who detailed the technical challenges of fortification. Particularly, the numerous factors affecting vitamin stability and ensuring full retention over a shelf life period. Plus, the flavour and texture changes that can occur with mineral fortification e.g. calcium oxide producing a disagreeable alkaline taste.

The floor was opened up for a hearty debate, with many questions relating to Vitamin D being asked. Kellogg's fortify using Vitamin D3 (not vegan) and fortify up to 50% of recommendations - never passing on the additional cost to the consumer. Consumer understanding of claims was discussed, it was agreed less scientific language was needed to effectively translate the health claims to the consumer. Overages, the amount of a nutrient needed to be incorporated into a product to ensure a certain fortification % remains at the end of a shelf life, and the ethical implications were also discussed. There was a broad range of delegates attending from Marks and Spencer and Tesco to Innocent and representatives from Whole Foods Market.

Overall it was a very insightful event that covered a wide range of areas in nutrient and vitamin fortification. It allowed the industry to come together and collaborate ideas and findings and discuss practical solutions. We would both highly recommend attending these events in the future either as a placement student, graduate or student.

Alice Bryant and Alice Nield, University of Reading