Receiving the micronutrients we need for a healthy diet is key to enjoying an active and productive life. The way we feel depends on our body and mind receiving regular inputs of vitamins and vital elements to fuel our activity levels. Most of us take it for granted that we will pick-up all we need to recharge our batteries through the food we eat.

One essential element none of us can do without is iron. Iron plays a vital role not only in the production of red blood cells and the body's oxygen transport and delivery system, but also in the regulation of metabolism. Iron deficiency causes anaemia, which can have widespread effects in terms of retarding growth, impairing IQ, tiredness and lowering resistance to infection.
 
Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is estimated to affect more than 1.5 billion people globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that two billion people or one-third of the world's population are anaemic based on haemoglobin levels; 75 per cent – more than a billion of these cases - are due to iron deficiency. No other micronutrient deficiency is as widespread.
 
Swedish iron powder manufacturer, Höganäs, is helping to reduce IDA by advocating flour fortification and providing a new iron powder – NutraFine™ – for the world food industry.
 
The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks iron deficiency among the world's top 10 most serious health problems. Iron deficiency undermines physical health, impairs mental development and increases the risks for pregnant women during childbirth. There are also serious socio-economic consequences. In the worst affected countries, iron deficiency is responsible for losses of up to 2 per cent of GDP.
 
Food fortification, adding vitamins and minerals to the foods that people eat every day, has proved to be an efficient, cost-effective way to deliver micronutrients, such as iron, to mass populations.
 
Höganäs participates in GAIN (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition) and was one of the charter members of the GAIN Business Alliance for Food Fortification (BAFF) in 2005. Supporters of GAIN include UNICEF, the World Bank, WHO, World Food Programme, US Aid and the Micronutrient Initiative. Other companies involved in BAFF include Unilever, Heinz, Danone, DSM, BASF, Tetra Pak and Coca-Cola.
 
In March, Höganäs was represented at a BAFF meeting in London, where it was announced that GAIN was to receive US $20 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for nutrition programmes in 10 developing countries.
 
GAIN, a non-profit-making foundation, is developing a 10-year strategy to achieve a number of set targets that involve reducing the prevalence of vitamin and mineral deficiencies by reaching people with fortified food. The aim is to achieve results at a cost of less than 25 US cents per person, per year.
 
“GAIN has very specific goals and we felt it was one of the more suitable organizations for the company to support in efforts to combat IDA,” says Patricia Jansson of Höganäs. “We focus particularly on flour fortification initiatives within BAFF. Interaction in this group gives us the input we need to develop the right products for food applications.”
 
Höganäs has been producing high purity iron powders since 1910. High purity has opened up diverse application areas and provided the basis for a product aimed at the food industry.
 

Cost effective option

“There are a lot of production methods approved for the elemental irons used in the food sector,” says Patricia. “Höganäs is in the unique position of having access to all of these production methods. This meant we could develop a unique iron fortification product that can provide good bioavailability and which is a cost effective option that meets the GAIN target. Our objective was to create a product that can benefit people all over the world.”

The result was the NutraFine™ brand, a powder range specifically for iron fortification applications in the food industry. It was successfully introduced in North America, the company's largest single market for iron fortification, in 2005, and launched globally last year.
 
“With the NutraFine™ range and our manufacturing capacity, we are able to meet the demands for mass iron fortification of wheat and cereal products, and thus contribute to the global effort to reduce IDA,” says Patricia.