Flour Fortification (or Enrichment)

Flour Fortification (or Enrichment)

Flour fortification is the practice whereby flour is mixed with certain substances of nutritional interest.


Answering this question is not as straightforward as it may seem, and it is first necessary to delve into history. Flour fortification, at least when mandated by law, originated in England during the Second World War. The English government realized that a portion of the population was at risk of suffering from certain nutritional deficiencies due to the scarcity of certain foods. To address this problem, they considered which product constituted the staple of the English diet. They had no doubts that this was flour, as the English consumed it daily in the form of bread or other products. It was easier to control a limited number of flour manufacturers than the entire population. Therefore, they mandated flour enrichment to remedy these deficiencies in certain nutrients of the population. Thus, we can understand that fortification is carried out to address nutritional deficiencies in the population. While this is true in certain countries, especially developing ones, it does not explain why fortification of flour remains mandatory in other countries (a common practice in Anglo-Saxon countries). Perhaps it has been thought that once this practice is accepted, it is better to continue it, preventing worse times from coming than to change it (people, in general, have a certain inertia and resistance to change). It is also possible that this could serve as a commercial protection since in countries where fortifying flour is not common, many flour mills do not have microdosers to carry out this practice, or they are not interested in doing so. Although I do not believe this is the main reason for its continuation. Voluntary fortification may also be a marketing strategy or a means of obtaining products with added value. Hence, we see numerous fortified infant products or dairy products in the market. The issue with flours is that most of their sales are not directly to consumers but to other industries that do not value this fortification as much.


The number of countries fortifying flour surprises Spaniards, and Europeans in general, as we are peculiar in this practice. For more comprehensive information, it is best to visit the website of the Food Fortification Initiative. This website details all the countries worldwide where fortification of flour is mandatory, voluntary, or under study. It also provides information on the types of flour that need fortification (wheat or maize) and the nutrients that must be added to these flours. It explains why flour fortification is necessary and with what, as well as the population groups that can benefit from this practice. In summary, fortification is necessary in practically all countries in the Americas (North, Central, and South) and in Australia. In Africa, it is mandatory in coastal countries in the southwest, as well as in much of the countries in East Africa. Several Asian countries have joined this initiative, but the large populations of countries like China and India are not included, perhaps because their diet is based on rice rather than flour. But we will talk about rice later. In Europe, fortification is only mandatory in England.

With What?

To know which nutrients are used to fortify flour, it is best to consult the website mentioned in the previous section. However, there is also valuable information in the document prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2009 on recommendations for the fortification of wheat and maize flours worldwide, which can be found here.

As can be seen, one of the most common practices is fortifying flours with iron and B vitamins, usually thiamine and niacin. Therefore, interesting nutrients are provided for the diet, but nutrients that were already in the wheat or maize grain and have been reduced by removing the bran during milling. As seen on the website and in the WHO report, not only the nutrient is important but also the method of adding it, as the bioavailability of the nutrient we want to incorporate must be considered. In addition to iron and B vitamins, some countries have chosen to enrich flours with folic acid or zinc, and rarely with vitamin A. This depends on the deficiencies found in specific groups of their populations. Thus, folic acid is a compound whose enrichment is of almost exclusive interest to pregnant women, but it has been shown that this practice can reduce the number of births with congenital neural tube defects.


Most of the world’s diet is based on wheat or maize flour, but there are certain countries where rice is the cereal that forms the basis of their diet. In many of these countries, there are severe nutritional deficiencies, and the population does not accept the consumption of whole rice, which would alleviate some of these deficiencies. To improve the nutritional quality of this population, and since enriching a grain is not as easy as enriching flour, various techniques have been attempted:

  • Coating the grain with these vitamins and minerals. This is not easy as these nutrients should not leach into the cooking water and must be released in the human body and utilized. But there have been developments in this direction.
  • Producing, through extrusion, fake rice grains that are actually nutritional bombs, which are mixed with normal rice. This is one of the techniques that has been most successful. However, the grains must be very similar to real ones (otherwise people discard them) and must withstand the cooking process.
  • Promoting the consumption of parboiled rice. To produce this rice, it is necessary to introduce some of the nutrients from the bran into the grain, which are trapped inside. But this type of rice, highly consumed in the Indian subcontinent, is not favoured in other countries.
  • Nutritional improvement through genetic modification. In this regard, the case of golden rice, with provitamin A, was very famous. But movements against genetically modified organisms have not helped these developments in some countries.
  • Traditional genetic improvement. A slower path, but one that is also being explored.

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