What is food-to-food fortification? A working definition and framework for evaluation of efficiency and implementation of best practices
Food-to-food fortification (FtFF) is an emerging food-based strategy that can complement current strategies in the ongoing fight against micronutrient deficiencies, but it has not been defined or characterized. This review has proposed a working definition of FtFF. Comparison with other main food-based strategies clearly differentiates FtFF as an emerging strategy with the potential to address multiple micronutrient deficiencies simultaneously, with little dietary change required by consumers. A review of literature revealed that despite the limited number of studies (in vitro and in vivo), the diversity of food-based fortificants investigated and some contradictory data, there are promising fortificants, which have the potential to improve the amount of bioavailable iron, zinc, and provitamin A from starchy staple foods. These fortificants are typically fruits and vegetables, with high mineral as well as ascorbic acid and ß-carotene contents. However, as the observed improvements in micronutrient bioavailability and status are relatively small, measuring the positive outcomes is more likely to be impactful only if the FtFF products are consumed as regular staples. Considering best practices in implementation of FtFF, raw material authentication and ingredient documentation are critical, especially as the contents of target micronutrients and bioavailability modulators as well as the microbiological quality of the plant-based fortificants can vary substantially. Also, as there are only few developed supply chains for plant-based fortificants, procurement of consistent materials may be problematic. This, however, provides the opportunity for value chain development, which can contribute towards the economic growth of communities, or hybrid approaches that leverage traditional premixes to standardize product micronutrient content.