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Fortification of wheat flour and maize meal with different iron compounds: Results of a series of baking trials

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Background. Wheat and maize flour fortification is a preventive food-based approach to improve the micronutrient status of populations. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) released recommendations for such fortification, with guidelines on the addition levels for iron, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and zinc at various levels of average daily consumption. Iron is the micronutrient of greatest concern to the food industry, as some believe there may be some adverse interaction(s) in some or all of the finished products produced from wheat flour and maize meal.

Objective. To determine if there were any adverse interactions due to selection of iron compounds and, if differences were noted, to quantify those differences.

Methods. Wheat flour and maize meal were sourced in Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania, and the iron compound (sodium iron ethylenediaminetetraacetate [NaFeEDTA], ferrous fumarate, or ferrous sulfate) was varied and dosed at rates according to the WHO guidelines for consumption of 75 to 149 g/day of wheat flour and > 300 g/day of maize meal and tested again for 150 to 300 g/day for both. Bread, chapatti, ugali (thick porridge), and uji (thin porridge) were prepared locally and assessed on whether the products were acceptable under industry-approved criteria and whether industry could discern any differences, knowing that differences existed, by academic sensory analysis using a combination of trained and untrained panelists and in direct side-by-side comparison.

Results. Industry (the wheat and maize milling sector) scored the samples as well above the minimal standard, and under academic scrutiny no differences were reported. Side-by-side comparison by the milling industry did indicate some slight differences, mainly with respect to color, although these differences did not correlate with any particular iron compound.

Conclusions. The levels of iron compounds used, in accordance with the WHO guidelines, do not lead to changes in the baking and cooking properties of the wheat flour and maize meal. Respondents trained to measure against a set benchmark and/or discern differences could not consistently replicate perceived difference observations.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106

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