Food fortification or enrichment is the process of adding micro-nutrients (essential trace elements and vitamins) to food. It may be a purely commercial choice to provide extra nutrients in a food, while other times it is a public health policy which aims to reduce the number of people with dietary deficiencies within a population. Diets that lack variety can be deficient in certain nutrients. Sometimes the staple foods of a region can lack particular nutrients, due to the soil of the region or because of the inherent inadequacy of the normal diet. Addition of micronutrients to staples and condiments can prevent large-scale deficiency diseases in these cases.
While it is true that both fortification and enrichment refer to the addition of nutrients to food, the true definitions do slightly vary. As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), fortification refers to “the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, ie. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in a food irrespective of whether the nutrients were originally in the food before processing or not, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and to provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health,” whereas enrichment is defined as “synonymous with fortification and refers to the addition of micronutrients to a food which are lost during processing.
Food fortification was identified as the second strategy of four by the WHO and FAO to begin decreasing the incidence of nutrient deficiencies at the global level.