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Canadian Public Health Association

Food fortification with vitamins and minerals

Many of the diseases that were thought to be contagious 100 years ago are now known to be from malnutrition. The idea that a deficiency in vitamins could cause disease was first published in 1912.

Food Fortification

Food fortification is the addition of vitamins and minerals to foods. The Food and Drug Regulations allow food fortification to:

  • replace nutrients lost in the manufacturing process;
  • act as a public health intervention;
  • ensure the nutritional equivalence of substitute foods; or
  • ensure the appropriate vitamin and mineral nutrient composition of foods for special dietary purposes.

Health Canada controls the addition of vitamins and minerals to foods to help Canadians receive the nutrients they need, while making sure that the levels are not dangerous. These regulations apply to all food sold in Canada.

In 2005, Health Canada proposed new food fortification regulations. This would continue the current fortification practices to prevent and correct nutritional problems such as requiring the addition of Vitamin D to milk or of folic acid to flour and to restore vitamins and minerals lost through processing.

The proposed policy would also give manufacturers the option to add certain vitamins and minerals to a wider range of foods at safe levels set by Health Canada. The proposal has not yet been adopted.

History of Food Fortification

  • In the early 1900s, beriberi and blindness in segments of the population in Newfoundland and Labrador led to the mandatory addition of calcium (as bone meal), iron, and B vitamins to flour and vitamin A to margarine in the 1940s.
  • In 1946, nutrition surveys in British Columbia and Saskatchewan estimated that about 21% of children had at least one sign of clinical vitamin A deficiency and about 50% of school children had evidence of past rickets.
  • Iodinization of salt became mandatory in 1949, and eliminated goiter in Canada.
  • Regulations amended in 1965 for the mandatory addition of vitamin D to fluid milk turned around a widespread problem with childhood rickets.
  • Canada's first comprehensive nutrition survey was conducted in 1970-1972 and found many segments of the population had dietary intake inadequacies, especially iron, calcium, vitamin D, and protein.
  • The survey also revealed that approximately 50 percent of the population was overweight.

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